Just what the doctor ordered

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a victory for America.

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The Supreme Court’s Thursday decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has dominated the country’s discourse. There has been nonstop talk and speculation regarding the political implications on both sides. Chief Justice John Roberts has been both championed and vilified for siding with the four liberal justices to become the swing vote in the 5-4 decision.

Yet not enough has been made about those who will benefit from the law.

The facts speak for themselves. Thirty-four million new Americans will have health care. In California, up to 92 percent of those under the age of 65 will be covered by President Barack Obama’s health care law. And insurance coverage of pre-existing conditions is required.

“Obamacare” speaks to a fundamental aim of government: to protect its citizens. Be it from war, poverty or illness, people should be supported and defended by their government.

There is an opposing argument that the law is imposing a tax on certain people to cover others. But contributing to the well-being of society is part of being an American. It is shameful that we as a country have taken this long to provide health care for people who don’t have it.

The point of insurance is not to only insure healthy people — it’s to insure everyone. “Obamacare” shifts America’s mindset on health care from treating illnesses to also preventing them. Uninsured Americans who might have only gone to a doctor for an emergency will now have the insurance to see the doctor beforehand and hopefully avoid the need for an expensive medical procedure.

Students are already being helped by the Affordable Care Act. For instance, young adults can now stay on their parents’ plans until age 26. For UC Berkeley students, this coming school year will be the last in which the Student Health Insurance Plan will have a lifetime maximum cap, which is currently $400,000. To align with the act, SHIP will switch to a $500,000 per year cap beginning in fall of 2013 and have no annual limits the following year.

No, this does not necessarily fix health care in the United States. “Obamacare” is certainly not perfect, and completely universal healthcare is hopefully a solution down the road. But in the politically and economically volatile times we are in, the Affordable Care Act is just what the doctor ordered.

Obama’s administration deserves credit. Throughout his 2008 campaign, he talked about reforming health care — and he did in one of the signature social legislative achievements in recent history. Justice Roberts found a unique way to uphold the law by considering the penalty on those lacking insurance to be a tax, which is completely under the purview of Congress. The court took its time and made a calculated decision for the betterment of the country, even if, for Roberts, that meant siding with his usual opponents.

Even though “Obamacare” has been settled in the courts, the issue of health care won’t die on the campaign trail. If anything, the decision might have resuscitated the issue somewhat, with the GOP’s presumptive nominee Mitt Romney declaring that he will work to repeal the law if elected. And Democrats point to the act as a great achievement for the current administration.

In the end, the decision is not just a win for Obama — it is a victory for the entire country. And it’s a grand slam.