Upholding the ACA is a constitutional, moral imperative

In a matter of weeks, the Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of the major aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the landmark healthcare reform law passed by Congress in 2010. While the concentration might be on the political ramifications of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the individual mandate and the Commerce Clause, I am focused on the impact the ruling will have on access to healthcare for millions of Americans and the urgent healthcare realities they face every day.

I am unequivocal in my belief that the Supreme Court will uphold the mandate, as the justices have little business debating the policy merits of healthcare reform in the first place. During the oral arguments in March, however, many, including myself, expressed shock that some of the justices openly embraced politics and were overtly hostile on the policy aspects of the law, rather than the constitutional aspects. In the process, the justices displayed a serious lack of understanding on how healthcare economics work and misrepresented the concept of a “cost curve” so badly that healthcare economists of all stripes cringed.

If the Supreme Court decides to follow politics and policy rather than the law, it will set a damning precedent for the future that will move our nation’s political dysfunction further out of the executive and legislative branches and even more into the judicial branch; it will rip healthcare from the clutches of the millions of Americans who so desperately need it during this prolonged economic downturn. In other words, this isn’t just a question of doing the constitutionally correct thing — it is about doing the right thing, period.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 2.5 million additional young adults, including 1.3 million minorities, now have access to care, providing a measure of economic security to families everywhere. Similarly, Americans with a pre-existing medical condition — including asthma, heart disease, previous injuries and cancer — now have access to vital, affordable care, protecting them from the worst insurance company abuses. Starting in 2014, this includes prohibiting insurance companies from charging higher premiums, limiting benefits or denying coverage to those who need it most. The Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, set up to provide a bridge to 2014 for those with pre-existing conditions, has seen a 400 percent increase in enrollment since 2010. Simply put, the Affordable Care Act works — it protects and saves millions of American lives today and will continue to do so in the years to come if left as the letter of the law.

The law has also created more than 350 new community health centers that provide critical health services to more than 50 million Americans in medically underserved areas, with more to come in the next few years. This represents a major investment in the regions that currently bend the cost curve so drastically for those who are insured. These 50 million Americans often lack the many basic primary care services desperately needed to avoid the exacerbated health problems that eventually cause a trip to the emergency room, which often times end up on the taxpayers’ dime.

There are numerous other examples of the access provisions in the Affordable Care Act that have changed the lives of millions of Americans for the better. These are hardworking families who live paycheck to paycheck and who were previously at the mercy of a broken health insurance system, often losing loved ones in the process. We cannot go back to the old way; we cannot forsake the health and safety of millions upon millions of Americans in the pursuit of partisan politics. I want to believe the justices currently deliberating healthcare reform understand that upholding the Affordable Care Act is upholding the Constitution of the United States and is cherishing the lives of millions of Americans today, tomorrow and for generations to come.

Honda is a senior member of the House Appropriations and Budget committees, chairman emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and co-chairman of the Congressional Hepatitis Caucus. During his time in Congress, he has advocated for increased access and funding in healthcare programs for underserved communities.

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