The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

June 28, 2012
Editorial: John Roberts leads court in saving health care act

California can proceed, without skipping a beat, in implementing the national Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the landmark legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama in March 2010.

This state and nation can and should proceed with enrolling the millions of uninsured and bringing health care costs under control. Congressional Republicans should drop their effort to repeal the act, although they won't. The fight now moves to the ballot box.

The U.S. Supreme Court today rightly upheld the law. The individual mandate, requiring Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty so they don't shift costs to others, stands. The court's limits on the expansion of Medicaid only apply to states that don't want to participate, so California can proceed.

The 5-4 division in the court on this decision, with Chief Justice John Roberts as the tiebreaker, reveals that the high court is as divided as the American people on the boundaries of powers between the federal government and the states -- and the role of the court itself in policing those boundaries.

That conversation clearly will continue.

But in upholding the law passed by Congress and signed by the president, the chief justice wrote an elegant opinion for the ages on judicial restraint, properly understood.

He made it clear that the court should allow the people of the United States through their elected branches to make decisions, writing:

"Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation's elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them."

Roberts concluded: "It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices."

People who don't like the Affordable Care Act can go to the polls in November and elect people who promise to change it, as can those who support it. For now, however, the court has upheld a landmark law, and that is a good thing for the nation, and for California, the largest health care market in the nation.

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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