The Affordable Care Act was signed into law more than a year ago, but in true democratic fashion the debate about whether it should remain on the books is far from over. Opponents of the law have been waging one court battle after another trying to have it ruled unconstitutional. But on June 29, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an encouraging ruling: the Affordable Care Act is constitutional.
The ruling is the latest in a handful of court decisions reaffirming the right of Congress to enact the law. The panel of three judges—two of whom were appointed by Republican presidents—determined that Congress had the power to pass the Affordable Care Act under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. We hope this will put the tired debate over the constitutionality of the new healthcare law to rest because there is a lot in the law that will give small businesses the relief they need from soaring healthcare costs.
The court case focused on the minimum coverage requirement provision of the ACA. This requires everyone in the United States to have some type of health coverage by 2014, whether through a private plan, employer-based health insurance or a public plan like Medicare or Medicaid. The judges agreed with many constitutional law experts on this subject: Congress did not overstep its legal authority when making this requirement.
It’s refreshing to see two judges from different political parties confirm the constitutionality of the minimum coverage requirement. They were able to look past the partisanship that has gripped the national debate on healthcare reform and make a decision based on the law.
Opponents of healthcare reform haven’t been able to defend the merits of their argument because the facts aren’t on their side. They can’t say that the status quo was working because it wasn’t—small business owners and their employees can attest to that. Small businesses have been losing coverage at an alarming rate thanks to the increasing unaffordability of insurance and inaccessibility to plans that fit their needs. The RAND Corporation estimates that the ACA will boost employer health insurance offer rates from 57 to 80 percent because of, among other things, lower premium costs resulting from healthcare exchanges and tax credits. A study we released with Families USA found that more than four million small businesses—87 percent of all small businesses in the country—are eligible for tax credits to help cover the cost of health insurance.
Opponents also claim that the reform measures will add to the national debt and increase government spending, yet the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s analysis found that the ACA will reduce the federal deficit by $143 billion by 2020 and by another $1 billion the following decade. This is an important point to consider as lawmakers debate whether to raise the nation’s debt limit. The Affordable Care Act will improve our nation’s fiscal woes by taking direct aim at rising costs across the entire healthcare system and making the reforms necessary to reduce waste, fraud and abuse and improve the effectiveness of every dollar we spend.
Most importantly, opponents’ efforts to thwart the law won’t make the situation any better for small businesses and the millions they employ. Striking down the law would only make things worse; health premiums would continue to increase at exponential rates and more and more individuals would be left uninsured. It was reassuring Wednesday to see fair and impartial judges stand on the side of reason and ensure that won’t happen any time soon.