It was a great week for President Obama and the American people. In a 5 – 4 stunning decision the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) – President Obama’s historic health care law. The split decision – unexpected from a court led by conservatives – was swayed by George W. Bush appointee, Chief Justice Roberts. In Robert’s opinion, the law’s controversial main component— the individual mandate requiring the majority of Americans to have health insurance or face a financial penalty — was deemed a tax and held to be constitutional. “Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness,” Roberts wrote.
The GOP and right-wing media outlets are furious with Justice Roberts. If you were listening to talking heads on the Fox News fantasy land over the last 48 hours you would have thought they were having a meltdown. There were all sorts of ridiculous statements like Chief Justice Roberts is an activist judge succumbing to public pressure, it’s the end of America as we know it, it’s the biggest tax increase in history, the government is becoming larger and larger and taking your liberties away, and Obamacare adds trillions to the deficit. Fox News joined the GOP chorus with lies and distortions regarding the ACA. So, let’s set the record straight.
Here are some facts. Regarding this so-called largest tax hike in history – according to the independent Congressional Budget Office, 19 million people will receive tax credits worth an average of about $4,800 each to help them afford health care. These tax credits will finally put health insurance within reach for millions of American families. Around 1% of people—those who can afford to buy coverage but instead choose to opt out, shifting their costs to the rest of us—will pay a penalty. The Supreme Court acknowledged yesterday that this penalty will be charged through the tax code—but that doesn’t change its purpose of ensuring everyone who can afford insurance buys it, or its effect of lowering costs for everyone. Specifically, if you don’t have health insurance, you will pay a tax penalty that will be phased in starting in 2014 with a fine of $95. In 2015, the penalty will increase to $325, and in 2016 to $695 or a percentage of your taxable income. The new health law explicitly says that there will be no criminal sanctions for failing to pay the penalty, and no liens or levies on your property. So says Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University. However, the government could come after your tax refund to pay the penalty.
The right also claims that Obamacare means “a larger and larger government, more and more intrusive in your life—separating you and your doctor.” Well, this is right-wing big government nonsense of the highest order. First, this isn’t about government it’s about improving the nation’s private health care system. In the old way, the insurance companies had control over your healthcare but with the ACA you now have control over your own healthcare. Before the ACA insurance companies had free rein to arbitrarily cap and cancel coverage, and they could waste our premiums on overheads and big bonuses for CEOs. With the ACA, there will now be clear rules of the road to give patients and doctors more control over health care. These rules will make sure that you and your doctor—not your insurance company, and certainly not a Washington bureaucrat—have control over your health.
The right claims Obamacare adds trillions to our deficits and to our national debt.Wrong, and wrong again. Time after time after time, the Congressional Budget Office has said the health care law will reduce the deficit—by more than $100 billion in the first 10 years, and more than $1 trillion in the second decade. Passing health reform was the fiscally responsible thing to do, and suggesting otherwise is just dishonest.
Not only is the Romney campaign misleading people about the ACA as it relates to the deficit, they won’t tell the truth about their own plans for the deficit. Romney would grow the deficit by as much as $5 trillion by giving tax cuts that favor millionaires and billionaires while taking away health care benefits that people rely on. You can add to Romney’s agenda – gutting Social Security and Medicare; removing regulations from banks, financial firms, and other big businesses; cutting environmental protection to the bone; cutting student loans and getting the federal government out of education; getting rid of unions; and eliminating the Affordable Care Act and taking insurance away from millions of Americans.These reckless changes planned by Romney and the GOP will have very bad consequences for the poor and average working people of America.
The Republicans will continue to try to stir up people’s fears and resentments through lies and distortions up until the election. We can’t let them get away with it this November.