I covered the day President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act–as it is called–into law. Just months in office, he had succeeded where political heavy weights had spectacularly failed, notably President Bill Clinton and the “Liberal Lion” of the Senate–the late Teddy Kennedy.
Almost two years to the date, it is before the U.S. Supreme Court. The law is deeply unpopular as confirmed by the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Now the justices will decide if it’s unconstitutional.
Lawyers from both sides presented compelling, intellectually rigorous, and legally sound arguments which I won’t even pretend to master–that’s for the fierce Jeffrey Toobins, Jan Crawfords, and Nina Totenbergs of the world–some of the best Supreme Court reporters.
Instead, a couple of reflections: Firstly, this Twitter double take when I saw that @BarackObama had usurped the disparaging label of “Obamacare,” coined by his opponents and made it into a trending meme intended to garner support, the way “What #40dollars means to you” helped him outmaneuver Congressional Republicans to secure extensions on a tax cut and unemployment benefits.
The times we live in…
Which leads me to Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”
Today, trapped between the Tale of Two Washingtons, are Americans scattered all over the country, people I met as a local reporter in Midland, then Brownsville, Texas, followed by Providence, before I arrived in Washington, DC more than five years ago.
Many are seeing their Middle Class Identity Card being yanked from their pockets, the victims of layoffs or foreclosures who are making a choice:
Pay for rent.
Or pay for health insurance.
Pay for groceries.
Or pay for medications.
They are praying that Mami‘s and Abuela‘s breast cancer, like the plagas of biblical Egypt, spares them because there isn’t money to get the lump checked out, or money to pay for treatment.
At the same time, Americans want to know that if I am sick, I will have access to whichever doctor and treatment I want or am willing to fight for (I think of my lioness Mami when she took on fancy schmancy doctors who let “we’re monitoring” go to Stage 3 cancer, ¡presto! just like that).
That my care and that of those I love is in my hands, and not that of faceless, gray government bureaucrats.
They wonder, how far government can and will go if someone doesn’t stand up.
And don’t think the tension between individual v. collective, states v. centralized government is new. It’s been with us since the founding of our nation as a trip to see our Declaration of Independence at the National Archives reveals.
So what’s it gonna be?
Compromise, common ground, consensus?
I wish. In the extremes of today’s Washington, like Dicken’s London and Paris, it’s none of the above.
As it appears in in Fox News Latino where I am a regular politics columnist.
By: Viviana Hurtado
Almost two years to the date when President Barack Obama signed the landmark health care reform legislation into law, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments to decide whether it is constitutional. The heart of the challenge, filed by more than half the states in the union, some groups, and individuals lies with this question: can the government force nearly all Americans to buy health insurance? But before the justices can rule on this federal mandate, they must decide if they can hear lawsuits that aim to block a tax before it’s paid. Simply put, can Congress regulate “lack of activity” such as the choice to not buy health insurance?
While the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act as it is known is still being determined, the mandate’s popularity is not. Americans overwhelmingly oppose forcing people to buy health insurance: although 36 percent of those surveyed approve of the law, 47 percent do not, with two-thirds wanting some, or all of it overturned. Still, large numbers —85 percent— support key parts, such as requiring insurance companies to cover those with a pre-existing medical condition, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
These views expose the deep partisan divide, with hard-core conservatives ardently opposing it, while resolute liberals passionately support it. To bolster approval, the Obama administration has targeted critical voting blocs such as women and Latino voters. In many surveys including Fox News Latino’s most recent poll, health care is a top issue, only outranked by the economy, jobs, and education. A White House blog geared toward the Hispanic community, which has the highest numbers of insured of any racial or ethnic group, notes some of the law’s benefits:
• 6.1 million Latinos now have access to preventive care without co-pays or co-insurance.
• Increased funding to more than 1,100 community health centers nationwide, doubling the number of patients served from 19 million to nearly 40 million by 2015.
• Insurance companies are prohibited from denying coverage to children because of a pre-existing medication condition which in 2014 will be expanded to anyone with a pre-existing condition.
But opponents, including the conservative Hispanic Leadership Network, argue that the government centralizing control of the healthcare system fails the Latino community by raising insurance costs for those who purchase individual plans, decreasing quality of coverage, increasing the federal deficit, and threatening jobs if companies, especially small businesses, have to cut positions to meet this mandate, assertions confirmed by the New York Times/CBS News poll.
Although the justices are hearing an unprecedented three days of oral arguments, they are not expected to release their ruling until June, likely placing this issue at the center of the presidential race, just months before the November election.
Click here to read my other Fox News Latino politics columns.Most Americans agree that our health care insurance system needs to be fixed. So how to do it?