Amidst honking horns of support and shouts of joy, a small crowd gathered outside the Bank of America tower in downtown Seattle to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The Court’s ruling on Thursday (June 28) that the individual mandate, which requires individuals not covered by employer or government insurance plans to maintain minimal essential health insurance, was a boon for many Washingtonians and American citizens in need of medical care, in the crowd's view.
Rachael DeCruz, communications coordinator for Washington Community Action Network (CAN), is delighted with the decision.
“Today the Supreme Court said that the Affordable Care Act is here to stay,” DeCruz said. “It’s a great day for citizens across the country.”
The ACA expands health coverage to more than 30 million Americans, and of the small sampling that gathered downtown, some spoke into a loud speaker and told anecdotes about what the decision means to them. Many were nervous, some were fired up, but all were grateful for the assurance of health care when the law is implemented in 2014.
Tears welling in her eyes, 38-year-old Nikki Mackey spoke about the hardest phone call she ever made to her mother when Mackey was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer nine months after losing her job. She has since gone through numerous rounds of chemotherapy.
Some younger supporters discussed how the uncertain market has prevented them from landing a job with a good health care package, and what a relief it is to be able under the Act to be able to remain on their parents’ plan until they turn 26.
Every so often the crowd looks high above their heads and up towards the top of the Bank of America Tower and shouts, “Shame on you!”
Who they were decrying was Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna.
McKenna was one of the Republican attorneys general from around the country that signed onto a multi-state lawsuit against the federal health care law, claiming it violated the federal Constitution.
The main provisions of the lawsuit were concerned with the individual mandate requiring citizens to purchase insurance or face a fine, and also the expansion of Medicaid that would stretch already thin state budgets.The Court ruled that the mandate is constitutional under Congress’s taxing power.
McKenna held a press conference in Seattle and gave a public statement.
“Our system of government provides a series of checks and balances, allowing new laws — especially ones that raise major constitutional questions — to be tested in court,” McKenna said. “While we’re disappointed that this close decision did not find in the states’ favor with regard to the individual mandate, the country benefits from a thoughtful debate about the reach of federal power into the legal rights of the states and the personal financial decisions of all Americans.”
As for the supporters downtown and WashingtonCAN, the Court’s ruling is a bookend to political debates about the constitutionality of ACA and a milestone that clears the way for other challenges facing the country — specifically fixing the economy.