By Michael Yudell
O'Reilly was wrong. In a stunning 193-page opinion, the court upheld most of the law.
Law professor and health policy expert Robert I. Field, my colleague at both the Inquirer's health-care blogs (Check Up) and in the office (Drexel University), has posted extensively about the history and legal implications of the health-care law, and he will be hosting a live chat about the ruling at 2 p.m. Thursday.
So what is it that makes health care an ethical and moral obligation for our nation? I believe there are two factors.
First, not providing health care to all goes against our shared creed that we are all created equal, and that among our unalienable rights is that of life. People who get sick deserve a chance to get better regardless of who they are, what their station in life is, and whether they can afford health care. Our current situation of health care haves and have-nots is neither justifiable nor sustainable by any of the ethical, political, or religious creeds upon which our nation stands and thrives.
Second, by all accounts, the United States remains the only Western nation not to provide some form of universal health coverage for its citizens — a circumstance that now is scheduled to change when the health-care overhaul's key provisions kick in in 2014. It is appalling that we have spent a century trying to come up with a way to get universal coverage. And it is in this lack of protection that we see evidence to compel us morally, as there have been severe prices to pay, in the cost of human health and mortality, for this longstanding failure.
Another study found that over a 17-year period those who lacked health insurance had a "25 percent greater chance of dying than did those who had private health insurance."
Why does health insurance better our health? The Institute of Medicine suggests that it is because those with insurance get care when they need it, they have a consistent source of that care, and there is continuity of coverage between visits.
Most of the law has survived scrutiny by the Supreme Court of the United States. So now the argument will shift back to politics. Congressional Republicans have long threatened to repeal it. So has the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.
With the legal issues resolved, the moral questions should take center stage.
Read more about The Public's Health.