*Last week the Supreme Court decided in favor of the universal healthcare statute passed under the Obama administration and upheld the individual mandate. To the surprise of no one conservatives decried the decision as contributing to the downfall of our society, evidence that President Obama is a socialist, and generally anti-American.
Of course conservatives have been consistent in their opposition and criticism of universal healthcare as a concept in general and the law specifically. But their dissatisfaction with the Supreme Court decision is faulty based on the job the justices are tasked with and the general direction of American society.
The Supreme Court is charged with ensuring that laws at the federal, state, and local levels of American society are within the boundaries of the Constitution. Conservatives look at the universal healthcare law and perceive it to be an overreach by Congress. More specifically Congress is allowed to enact laws to regulate commerce; critics of universal healthcare assert that the law pushes people into the business of buying health insurance instead of regulating those who already bought or provide healthcare, and in forcing people to act in such a way it goes beyond its duty.
This is a serious charge and it has some merit to be sure. The point of our government is avoid having a central authority able to force the people to do things they don’t want to do. Chief Justice Roberts highlights this in his written decision.
Nevertheless the law is permissible under the Constitution and the Supreme Court’s ruling was correct for two interrelated reasons.
First, American society has expanded and contains many more moving parts in 2012 than it did in the 1780s when the Constitution was written. So although there was less government involvement in years gone by, more facets of American society today necessitates more government involvement. Moreover (and this is the part that really bothers conservatives), Americans have come to expect government oversight of important issues like public health. So what may have been determined to be unnecessary meddling in 1790 according to the Constitution is now practical regulation as our interpretation of government’s role in American society evolves.
Secondly, and more specifically, the healthcare of individual Americans combines to make up public health. Public health is an area that deserves government intervention and oversight to maintain a sound society. Because of this the Supreme Court decision is the logical method of government protecting its role in society. In forcing people to gain health insurance, the actual law mirrors society’s stance regarding the automobile industry. Here also government requires insurance so that individuals do not incur exorbitant costs maintaining their vehicles. And the potential for financial ruin is much greater where healthcare costs are concerned.
Taken together the increased role of government and the need for government to ensure that individuals protected from physical and financial harm make the healthcare law necessary and ensure that the Supreme Court would find it Constitutional.
Ironically enough the healthcare law will also address the other conservative talking point of the economy. By ensuring that everyone have health insurance, this law helps to ensure that everyone will be healthy enough to work and contribute to the economy. Also, when the government mandates an action an industry is created or expanded (a la sanitation, education, or auto insurance). Healthcare will be no different in this regard. Now that everyone must have coverage, the market will force the creation of more health care providers.
The universal healthcare law is good. It is necessary. It is just. It is legal. It is American.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.