Health Care and a Dirty Word Called "Tax"
There’s a lot we can talk about in response to the U.S. Supreme Court (“SCOTUS”) decision on the Affordable Care Act. It may have created a deep schism in the conservative wing of the Court [Huffington Post]. Its clear from dicta in the various opinions that there are five justices willing to further restrict federal power based on the commerce clause (which bodes ill for a great deal of civil rights legislation) [Opinion on Bloomberg]. But of course the big news is that Roberts’ opinion upheld the individual mandate on the theory that it was an appropriate use of the federal government’s authority to tax.
Where I work the response has been no less trollish. (Seriously, sometimes I want to ask my coworkers if they have a Feministe Top Troll plaque in their living rooms.) People are angry. They’re angry that they lost. They’re angry that they are required to purchase health insurance (nevermind that they all have excellent health coverage with a tiny premium mostly paid by our employer). But most of their anger is directed at the idea that they are being taxed. My local rep is even introducing a constitutional amendment to require Congress to label tax bills [Ben Quayle's Congressional page].
On Friday a coworker flagged me down in the hall to rant about the “tax” and Obama’s purported deceptiveness and to tell me about the Constitutional amendment. I (deciding to act a little trollish myself) asked why she was so concerned given that we have health insurance at work and she has other guaranteed benefits to rely on so the likelihood that she would ever be required to pay the “tax” is somewhere between zero and minus 1 billion. Her response: “Its personal because I don’t want the government thinking it can steal my money.”
Well, its personal for me too. I grew up without medical care even though I was chronically ill. For a years I was denied treatment because of my parents’ religious beliefs and later because we simply couldn’t afford it. Every doctors visit, every recommended test, every prescription was choice between my health and our collective survival. Even when my parent’s scratched their way into the working/middle class my chronic condition meant that we had to choose between my medication and heat or my treatment and the mortgage.
The ACA is not the ideal solution by any stretch. I prefer we just move to a straight up single payer system, but this law for all its flaws is intended to make sure that every person has access to the medical care they require. Making that happen is personal because no one should have to choose between their health and their family’s survival.
For me that is what this debate over “taxes” boils down to. In the starkest terms its a question of whether we as a society believe that holding on to money is more important than someone else’s survival.