The Affordable Care Act of 2010, one of the most sweeping pieces of legislation ever presented to the American people, stood to profoundly touch the lives of tens of millions. Interpretations of the manner in which they would be impacted led us to where we are today.
Given the polarizing furor, complexities and reach, having the U.S. Supreme Court weigh in as a final arbiter came as no surprise. And as one committed to freedom and justice, I welcomed the opportunity for definitive affirmation and precedent, because I still hold an abiding faith in the role and tenets of this third branch of democracy.
Administrations and members of Congress come and go, but no matter who wears those black robes, justice is to be dispensed. Despite past disappointments delivered by the Roberts Court, including the immigration ruling earlier this week, the right decision emerged today, despite the tinge of politics. It was clear that the chief justice took a hit for the court’s conservatives, unable to oppose the law on constitutional merit.
From the onset, ACA — or “Obamacare” — inspired political passions that savaged the institutions of our democracy in the most base, petty and juvenile ways imaginable. Nationwide, there’s diminished respect for the pillars that gird us. The presidency. Congress. And, increasingly, the Supreme Court.
Each has been glazed with a taint of illegitimacy in this steady season of my-way-or-the-highway politics.
Those fissures will be felt for generations. The scars already are apparent in those 22-, 23- and 24-year-olds that turned out en masse in 2008, then 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds fully believing they could affect the direction of their country. Today, you sense bewilderment, bitterness and mistrust, spawned by the relentless onslaught of political blood sport waged since January 19, 2009.
As we approach one of our nation’s most sacred holidays, in the city of its birth, this decision holds even greater meaning and pause for reflection on where we go from here. This is no time for spiking the ball or drowning tears of frustration, no matter your perspective on the ruling.
Affordable healthcare remains a critical issue facing this nation, particularly in this Commonwealth, where 2 in 5 residents are either under 18 or over 65, ages likeliest to need medical attention. Amid a sputtering economy and fewer social services, we continue to grapple with the issue of uninsured Pennsylvanians and face the reality of countless others living tenuously paycheck-to-paycheck can barely hold onto their insurance policies. Today’s decision doesn’t magically end that. It opens the next chapter to fix it.
The fledgling framework to implement the individual mandate and health exchanges must move forward in Pennsylvania. There will be pressure on this legislature and governor to expand healthcare accordingly. It’ll be interesting to see how they respond. We certainly can’t tolerate time wasted by partisan delays.
Anyone deeply invested in the success of this nation knows affordable healthcare is critical to that goal. The games are over. We have serious work to do, on behalf of this Commonwealth and these United States of America. For we, the people, deserve nothing less.
Anthony Hardy Williams serves as Democratic whip in the state Senate and represents parts of South, West and Southwest Philadelphia and Delaware County. He also chairs the Philadelphia United Democratic Ward Leaders of Color.