Another Legal Victory for Health Reform

Today, the Affordable Care Act scored another win in court when the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law is constitutional. In upholding the constitutionality of the law, Judge Laurence H. Silberman reaffirmed that Congress has the constitutional authority “to forge national solutions to national problems” like the need to provide affordable, quality health care to all Americans.

The ruling is yet another victory for the millions of Americans who are already benefitting from the law including the parents of children with preexisting conditions, women getting mammograms with no out-of-pocket cost, seniors saving hundreds of dollars on their prescription drugs, and one million young adults now newly insured through their parent’s plan.

The ruling also marks the third time a federal appeals court has ruled in favor of the law. Previously, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed opponents’ cases against the law.

The Administration has also asked the Supreme Court to hear these cases. We’re confident that, like today, we will prevail. Here’s why:

  • The Affordable Care Act, through the individual responsibility requirement, will require everyone, if they can afford it, to carry some form of health insurance since everyone at some point in time participates in the health care system, and incurs costs that must be paid for. For the 83% of Americans who have coverage and who are already taking responsibility for their health care, their insurance premiums will decrease over time.  Only those who are able to pay for health insurance will be responsible for obtaining it and new tax credits and other provisions in the law will make health insurance affordable for middle class families. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office estimated that only 1 percent of all Americans would pay a penalty for not having health insurance in 2016. 
  • Opponents of reform wrongly claim that Congress exceeded its authority in regulating when and how people pay for health care. Those who claim that the “individual responsibility” provision exceeds Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce are simply wrong. People who make a decision to forego health insurance do not opt out of the health care market.  Their action is not felt by themselves alone.  Instead, when they become ill or injured and cannot pay their bills, their costs are shifted to others. Those costs – $43 billion in 2008 alone – are borne by doctors, hospitals, insured individuals, taxpayers and small businesses throughout the nation.
  • Additionally, banning insurance companies from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions helps to ensure that every American who can afford it has insurance.  We don’t let people wait until after they’ve been in a car accident to apply for auto insurance and get reimbursed, and we don’t want to do that with health care.  If we’re going to outlaw discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, people should not be allowed to game the system and raise costs on everyone else.  

Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President and Deputy Senior Advisor

 

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