Here's why it's so important to do that: About 30 million people - Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, independents and many who care nothing about politics - lack health insurance. That means they also lack decent access to adequate health care for themselves and their families.America is practically alone among wealthy countries with so many people adrift without basic health coverage.
Those with insurance, and those who pay taxes, end up subsidizing the uninsured when they inevitably require medical care. When they do seek care, it often costs more because they are typically sicker and typically seek care in expensive settings such as hospital emergency rooms.
Covering them has been a goal that's been pursued by Republican and Democrat administrations going back to FDR and Truman. But when you try to overhaul a $2 trillion industry, influenced by powerful stakeholders such as insurance companies, hospitals and doctors, and one that touches everyone at some point in their lives, the best goals can quickly get lost among the competing interests.
The law also intends to control rapidly rising health care costs. With more people insured, premiums should stabilize as the insured pool includes more healthy people as well as sick people. On this point, we should hold the law accountable, as health care costs have literally bankrupted people and hurt the competitiveness of businesses.
This decision and this law will continue to be controversial. Fewer than half of Americans say they'd be happy with the decision, no matter what the Supreme Court did. That's from a June survey by the reputable Pew Research Center. They say they're concerned government has become too involved in health care. But at the same time, more than 80 percent want the government to do more to make health care more affordable and accessible.
The fact is, government is already deeply embedded in health care, as a quarter of all health care spending comes from Medicare, the federal program for senior citizens. And Medicare's sometimes-arcane rules and regulations have an impact on nearly all hospitals and doctors.
This law is important because it is so sweeping. Health care is a huge, complicated system. Improving it will take a comprehensive solution, not a series of incremental fixes.
These are the promises of the Affordable Care Act. The court's constitutional seal of approval takes away a big question mark from the law's implementation.
So let's let it work; let's see what we learn, and then adjust to make sure it does what it was supposed to do: Coverage for all, better care, health insurance security and cost control.