Supporters of the Affordable Healthcare Act celebrate in front of the Supreme Court after the court upheld the legality of the law in Washington June 28, 2012. Reuters/Joshua Roberts
There have been few steadier Congressional hands throughout he debate over healthcare reform than that of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Principled in his support for the real reform of “Medicare for All,” yet pragmatic in his advocacy for Affordable Care Act provisions that expand public health programs and allow states to experiment with single-payer options, Sanders has been in the thick of every fight over President Obama’s signature reform. And the ensuing legislative and legal battles over its implementation.
What Sanders says about Thursday’s Supreme Court decision upholding the ACA provides important insights for progressives as they respond to a complex decision that, in the words of the National Nurses United union, “should not be seen as the end of the efforts by health care activists for a permanent fix of our broken health-care system.”
So what does Sanders say?
On the ruling, his line is upbeat:
Today is a good day for millions of Americans who have pre-existing conditions who can no longer be rejected by insurance companies. It is a good day for families with children under 26 who can keep their children on their health insurance policies. It is a good day for women who can no longer be charged far higher premiums than men.
It is a good day for 30 million uninsured Americans who will have access to healthcare. It is a good day for seniors who will continue to see their prescription drug costs go down as the so-called doughnut hole goes away. It is a good day for small businesses who simply cannot continue to afford the escalating costs of providing insurance for their employees. It is a good day for 20 million Americans who will soon be able to find access to community health centers.
But that does not mean that Sanders is satisfied.
“In my view, while the Affordable Care Act is an important step in the right direction and I am glad that the Supreme Court upheld it, we ultimately need to do better,” the independent senator says. “If we are serious about providing high-quality, affordable healthcare as a right, not a privilege, the real solution to America’s health care crisis is a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system. Until then, we will remain the only major nation that does not provide health care for every man, woman and child as a right of citizenship.”