The Supreme Court decided to review the constitutionality of the Obamacare legislation (lower court judgment was 13 upholding, 3 not) before it recessed for the summer, and revealed a split judgment Thursday, mirroring the nation’s divide.

At the core of the dispute is the individual mandate that requires everyone to get health insurance, and failure to do so entails a penalty. The contention was that Congress exceeded its power to legislate the provision under the Commerce clause, which gives it duty to regulate interstate commerce.  The law commands rather than regulates.

The truth, of course, is the conservative aversion of the Federal reach getting into their pocketbooks, or just simply intruding into their sovereign right to make their own mistakes, a constitutionally protected right.

Portion of the media dubbed Obamacare, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), allows the Federal government to threaten withholding grants to State Medicaid programs when non-compliance is deemed.  The SC decision identified this as a No-No. However one parses the SC judgment, the PPACA survived, and the constitutionality of the Obamacare program was upheld.  Five Justices said “Aye”; the other four said “Nay”, divided along political lines save Bush appointee Chief Justice John Roberts, a known conservative, stayed the constitutional course rather than vote Right as anticipated!

Roberts laborious slicing between regulating through the “Commerce clause” and the right to “tax” led CNN and Fox news to jump the gun and reported in its breaking news that the individual mandate was declared unconstitutional. They were wrong. Obamacare lives!

Having previously declared myself to be supportive of some political donkeys on island, and not a big fan of the political elephants, we were tempted to gloat in classic partisan style.  So we refrained from writing Thursday so that we might be a little cooler and more balanced Monday morning.

Nah. Didn’t work. Or, in our appropriated Chinoy heritage, we have a better appreciation of the manners of moderation and the politics of gloating harmoniously!

In our social activist past, we were incensed at the watering down of benchmark case laws, from universal suffrage to women’s rights, the New Deal and the Civil Rights Act.  More than a good century after the ceremonial emancipation of African-American slaves, dark skin still connotes second-class citizenship.

Still, in this instance, the highest court of the land found a controversial legislation within the constitutional parameters of the nation, the Justices putting their pens behind the cause of movement rather than defending a status quo gone berserk.

Movement has been the character of the American soul.  While Europe bickered with the defense of territorial gains, “Go West, young man (sic)” was America’s early advice to its adventurous young.  That directional advice went as far as Dewey Blvd (now, Roxas Blvd) in the famed Manila Bay sunset.

Something in the waters of America, with all its chemical pollution, is receptive to periodic change sans violent revolution.  May we drink more, and drink deeply, from these waters.

Perhaps, my media colleagues will now desist in calling the Health Care Reform movement pushed further by the Obama administration as Obamacare.  It is really Americares, with no apologies for commitment to look after the barely making it and the struggling ones in a country that prides itself of enlightenment and human progress.

Health reform has taken more than a century to finally get a legislative and judicial nod. It is a rearguard movement in the United States.  We lag behind other countries in instituting universal health care.  Attempts to legislate such reform began with Teddy Roosevelt without any success. Mitt Romney, while governor of Massachusetts, signed a health reform law that is not dissimilar from Obamacare that he has consistently vowed to dismantle if elected into office.

Reactive response is a conservative virtue when in hindsight it throws out the bathwater gone stale.  It is demonic when it trashes the baby along with the refuse. Still, the issue is not on remedial interventions at the trauma centers.  It remains, as the conservatives are wont to remind us, a question of individual responsibility, and for each one finally to be made accountable to maintaining their own health care.

Scratch a check for the White House in successfully gaining acceptance of its health care big picture.  As everyone knows, the devil is in the detail.  PPACA in the small picture will have the opportunists aiming for a quick buck while implementing agencies stay cautious by not doing much too quickly, and organized stakeholders vie for a favorable position to influence further policy elaboration, program refinement, and budgetary allocation.

Meanwhile, those of us outside the grid of institutional health care still have to dig deep on reserves, a commodity fast disappearing, but never mind.  Emergence of American universal health coverage might yet emerge in our lifetime, and for that, this wearing-of-the-heart-up-our-sleeves guy, is mighty pleased.

Good work, America!

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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