The American people elected representatives who passed and a president who in 2010 signed a law clearly designed to expand both the availability of health insurance and the government's role in regulating and funding it. And the Supreme Court, with its 6-3 decision Thursday upholding the Affordable Care Act, wisely decided to interpret the overall intent of Congress instead of using four ambiguous words in a 900-page law to overturn such a major initiative.
"Congress," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, "passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter."
That ruling doesn't end the political argument. If the vicious attacks far-right pundits and politicians aimed at Roberts are an indication, it might re-energize the fight. Roberts is not a traitor to political conservatism, and the idea, across the political spectrum, that justices should be vilified anytime they make rulings we disagree with is destructive to the institution.
We're in a presidential race and many Republican candidates were quick after the court's decision to promise a renewed fight against Obamacare. And the law will be a key issue in many House and Senate races. The Affordable Care Act could be improved, even Obama acknowledged yesterday. It would be wonderful if opponents and supporters worked together to make improvements, like tweaking the corporate mandate so it doesn't incentivize cutting employee hours. They should also revisit a "Cadillac plan" tax that will make companies pay a 40 percent surcharge on high-quality coverage starting in 2018. But repealing Obamacare shouldn't be a focus in Congress, because opponents can't win. They've proven this with more than 50 impotent votes in the House of Representatives to repeal. There is no chance the Senate will approve a repeal, and no chance President Barack Obama will sign one. Republicans should stop wasting energy on this political ploy.
And as we swing into the 2016 campaigns, candidates who want to make the case against the ACA should concentrate a lot more on "replace" and a lot less on "repeal." Republicans ran presidential elections against the law in 2008 and 2012 and lost both.
Now, with 8.7 million people getting government subsidies for coverage under the program, it is becoming ingrained in the American system. And like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security -- which were fiercely opposed at first but enjoy broad support now -- the ACA will only become more central to everyday lives.
Replacing the program is tough because benefits everyone supports, like keeping children on parents' policies until age 26 and mandating that people with pre-existing conditions can get coverage, are paid for by the least popular pieces: mandates that most companies must provide insurance for employees or pay penalties, and that most individuals must secure insurance for themselves or face penalties.
Let's hear more about options that wouldn't throw the system into chaos by denying people coverage they need and should have.