The Senate made history by passing legislation that would overhaul the nation’s health insurance system. Though the bill still has to be merged with the one the House passed in November before it can be signed into law by President Obama, this current crop of legislators has come farther than any other in working to make sure Americans have needed health care coverage. The legislation, however, may not see the light of day if some states have their way.
Attorney generals from 10 states are working to challenge the constitutionality of the bill’s requirement that every individual buy health insurance. They are also looking to use the fact that some senators, in exchange for their vote, received benefits for their state to form the basis of their legal challenge.
If passed, the government would require, for the first time, that every American carry some type of health insurance; support would be provided to help those who cannot afford to pay for insurance on their own. Employers would be encourage to provide insurance for employees via tax credits and the insurance industry would not be allowed to deny benefits or charge higher premiums for those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes.
Passing such monumental legislation, estimated to cost nearly $1 trillion over 10 years, has been no easy task. Concessions had to be made and lawmakers from every state worked to ensure the interests of their constituents were at least partially reflected in the bill.
The attorney generals who wish to stop the passage of the bill should think about the elderly woman who, because of the high cost of medication, cannot afford insulin to manage her diabetes or of the young boy who died from a tooth infection because his parents didn’t have medical care and couldn’t take him to the doctor. These are the types of stories that fuel the desire to begin the real task of reforming America’s health care system.
(Judge Greg Mathis is vice president of Rainbow PUSH and a national board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.)