The highest court in the land has spoken again. The U.S. Supreme Court did the right thing Thursday by upholding the financial subsidies in the Affordable Care Act that have helped bring health care coverage within reach for the 6.4 million Americans who purchased insurance through the federal marketplace.
This historic decision affirms that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and should allow us to move past the political differences that have been a distraction for far too long. As Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority: “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not destroy them.”
While California would not have been directly affected by an adverse ruling because it runs its own insurance marketplace, our state has shown that by putting aside partisan differences and putting our collective shoulders to the wheel, we can make affordable health care a reality.
Since January 2014, more than 3.7 million have become eligible for Medi-Cal, and 1.8 million have benefited from health insurance through Covered California, the state’s insurance marketplace, 90 percent of whom received some level of federal financial support.
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The Supreme Court’s decision not only settles the law, it sets a moral precedent that puts the United States on the right side of history.
America has finally joined a community of nations that recognizes the importance of health care coverage and access. This critical policy has been embraced by nations around the globe, stretching as far back as 1883 when Germany enacted insurance mandates. Other countries including Norway, Britain, Russia, France, the Netherlands, Canada and the rest of the developed world followed suit.
In the developing world, Mexico recently achieved universal health coverage by enrolling 52.6 million previously uninsured individuals into public medical insurance programs in less than a decade.
The Affordable Care Act represents a new era of health care, where we can do what is right for Americans.
According to Gallup, the uninsured rate among U.S. adults has declined from a high of 18 percent before the health reform law to 11.9 percent in the first quarter of 2015, dropping most among lower-income Americans, Hispanics and African Americans, the groups most likely to be without health insurance.
This means more people can get the care they need. The Commonwealth Fund found that 62 percent of adults who have used their new coverage said they would not previously have been able to access or afford this care.
Thanks to the high court’s decision, millions of Americans will remain covered and will continue receiving the care they need, when they need it. They don’t have to worry about losing their health insurance policy or being overwhelmed by medical bills from an unforeseen injury or illness. They don’t have to skip doctor visits or split medication doses because they cannot afford the costs.
Now it is time to get beyond rhetoric. Let’s focus on improving something that is already working for millions of people. The Affordable Care Act is something we can all be proud of and we must now turn with renewed focus to making it work even better.
Diana Dooley is chairwoman of Covered California and secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency. Peter V. Lee is executive director of Covered California.