Opinion: Supreme Court ruling is win for Obama - and US citizens | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 29.06.2012
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Opinion: Supreme Court ruling is win for Obama - and US citizens

The US Supreme Court has declared that President Obama's health care reform does not violate the constitution. It's good news for both the president and US citizens, says Deutsche Welle's Christina Bergmann.

US President Barack Obama (C) receives applause from healthcare professionals while delivering remarks on healthcare reform from the East Room of the White House, in Washington DC, USA 03 March 2010. Trying to craft a bipartisan health care reform bill, President Obama said his new plan includes Republican ideas on tort reform and health savings accounts. EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Entscheidung des US Supreme Court zur Gesundheitsreform

The Supreme Court's verdict is not only a victory for President Barack Obama, but for all US citizens. By approving the central clause of Obama's health care reform - the obligation to get insurance - the highest US court has effectively approved Obama's entire health care package (with one exception, which the court considered separately).

From now on, insurance companies are no longer allowed to refuse insurance because of a pre-existing illness or cancel insurance if the insured falls ill. Children remain insured with their parents until they are 26 years old. Preventative treatment will be paid, and insurers are not allowed to place yearly or lifetime financial caps on medication or treatments. This is particularly good news for those with chronic conditions.

In short, no one need go bankrupt if they fall ill and can't pay the bills.

The reform finally puts the US, where around 50 million people currently do not have health insurance, among the world's civilised nations. And the Supreme Court has proved once again that it does not stand in the way of progress. Reason has won out over political rhetoric. As many as 26 states appealed against the health care reform - but only for party political reasons.

Christina Bergmann

Christina Bergmann is DW's Washington correspondent

The idea of insurance obligation was originally hatched by a conservative think tank, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney introduced it during his time as governor of the state of Massachusetts. He only opposed it when President Obama began work on the national bill.

Not a fine, but a tax hike

The Supreme Court judges upheld the reform by five votes to four. The four recognized "liberal" judges were joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, not previously known for his progressive views. And his vote came at a price - the court ruled that those who choose not to insure themselves are not paying a fine, but a tax.

And Congress' right to levy taxes remains undisputed - health insurance is the same as buying gasoline or property. The catch for the Democrats is that the health care reform is now officially a tax increase - a phrase they have painstakingly avoided until now, and a battle cry swiftly taken up by the Republicans.

Obama reacted to the verdict with satisfaction, and called on politicians to look to the future, and not repeat the debates of two years ago. That was when his health care reform first caused a storm, and the Tea Party won a large part of its popularity from resistance to the measure.

But it is unlikely that Obama really believes that the conservatives will let the matter lie. Mitch McConnell, Republican minority leader in the Senate, said on Thursday that the verdict is not the end of the debate, but "the start of the path towards repealing the law." And Romney declared that if he is elected president in November, he will do just that on his first day in office.

So the political battle will continue. The verdict provides ammunition for both Republicans and Democrats, but for now, at least, the Supreme Court's decision means that millions of Americans will not suffer as a result of the political mudslinging.

Author: Christina Bergmann / bk
Editor: Tracy Moran

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