The Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care held an event following the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on June 28. Those who planned the gathering had no way to know what the decision would be. Members of the clergy as well as leaders from groups representing small business, labor, women, children and senior citizens and healthcare4every1 supporters were invited. Fortunately for those of us who support health care reform, the event, held just a few hours after the decision was announced, turned out to be a celebration, not a funeral.
It is great news that the Court upheld the ACA. But many of us are still reeling from how close we came to having the whole law struck down. As Ezra Klein points out, the decision was not really 5-4, it was 4-1-4, with the Chief Justice ruling on both sides of the issue. The only reason we were celebrating and not mourning at the interfaith fellowship event was that Justice Roberts found highly technical reasons to both uphold the individual mandate and allow the Medicaid expansion to go ahead. But for these differences, the entire law would have been overturned. In fact, it appears that Chief Justice Roberts himself was extremely conflicted and may have even changed his mind during the court’s deliberations! This chart shows how deeply divided the court was, and how narrowly the ACA squeaked by.
This dissension on the court is mirrored in the heated political jockeying and spin that has followed the decision. Media stories and opinions abound about whether the individual mandate is a tax or a penalty. Journalists are keeping score of how many governors will or will not expand Medicaid coverage. And those opposed to the ACA continue to seek new ways to bury it.
How very different things were on the day the decision was announced at the interfaith gathering in Hartford. The first three speakers were a minister, an imam and a rabbi. Despite their varied religious traditions, they were clearly bound together by their profound belief that access to health care is a moral imperative. As Imam Kashif Abdul-Karim proclaimed, “This fight wasn’t just about mandates or insurance; it was about what kind of country we want to be – a deeply divided, unequal one that gives advantage to the very few at the expense of the many, or a country that cares for all of its people and treats them as equals. “
As the divisions on the court continue to be analyzed and the debate rages all around us, the image I’m going to hold in my mind is of a minister, an imam and a rabbi preaching from the same podium, remarkably united in their views that Connecticut must and will move forward to do what is right.
Jill Zorn is the Senior Program Officer at Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut.