Irish echo logo 750x550

Affordable care

Obamacare, Romneycare, blahblahcare.

Some were loudly cheering the 5-4 Supreme Court decision last week, some were describing it as the greatest blow to liberty in the history of the American Republic.

Most people just got on with the task of getting through the day, hopefully without recourse to health care.

Regardless of political persuasion, we all want to enjoy good health. And if the reality becomes otherwise, if our health takes a hit, or goes into a nosedive, we want to be certain that there is adequate professional care available and, hopefully, a cure for what ails us.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

Human needs and desires don't vary all that much, not even between Democrats and Republicans. And this will yet be the case in 2014 when the main thrust of the Patient Care and Affordable Health Act of 2010 ("Obamacare" to some) really kicks in.

At that point, people who enjoy health coverage through their jobs, according to news reports, will see no change. Those who do not have coverage will be required to get it through state-run health exchanges or pay a penalty, or, as Chief Justice John Roberts described it in his deciding opinion, a "tax."

This penalty/tax will be imposed on those who have the money to pay but exercise a choice and don't buy into a health care plan.

Follow us on social media

Keep up to date with the latest news with The Irish Echo

They will then have to deal with the IRS which will tax/levy a penalty on such non-paying individuals to the tune of $695, or 2.5 percent of their income, whichever is higher.

While it can be difficult to see through the fog of blather surrounding health care, it is a fair bet that there are greater threats to our individual liberty right now in a world beset by rising tides of ignorance and intolerance, and indeed rising tides.

Beyond the argument over whether "Obamacare" is a threat to freedom of choice, or simply a means of adding to the tax burden on millions of citizens, there are the crucial issues highlighted by two words in the title of the act around which all the fuss has been revolving.

Those words are "care" and "affordable."

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the formula that is the perceived foundation for a meaningful existence in our society, depends heavily for a lot of folks on how we care for one another, at the individual, family and community level.

And while the three principles behind a meaningful American life can, in theory, be embraced at no monetary cost, the reality for most people is that not being able to afford health care when it is needed sorely impinges on all three.

And this is the crux of the health care issue. It's all very well providing health care, in principle, for every citizen. But if the cure for a broken body ends up breaking the bank, then we are talking about a blow to the kind of liberty and peace of mind that comes from knowing that illness is not necessarily a catastrophic event.

Those readers familiar with the immigration debate will recall the phrase "unintended consequences." It refers to an outcome of the 1965 immigration reform act that was not, at the time, immediately apparent to those who crafted the reform. That outcome was a door closing in the face of the Irish who, since that time, have faced near insurmountable hurdles when trying to move to, and legally reside in, the United States.

So could there be unintended consequences resulting from the Supreme Court decision that preserves the beating heart of "Obamacare?" There could well be. The same can be said of any alternative plan drawn up by a future Republican president, or GOP-dominated Congress.

In theory, "Obamacare," at least down the line a ways, is supposed to boost the health care market in a way that it makes it more affordable for everyone in the market.

But just a glance at the skyrocketing costs of health care in recent years will cause doubt in even the most certain of minds. Making health care obtainable and affordable then is not a partisan issue, or shouldn't be.

But politicians are far from being in control of the kind of market-driven health care system that, yes, does make America an object of envy for so many around the world. And this lack of control, obscured as it is by the roof-raising volume of argument, is the kind of vacuum into which those "unintended consequences" so easily march, like so many infectious microbes.

So, despite all the argument, despite all the overheated rhetoric, despite all the blather, there is a dollars and cents/sense imperative here that recognizes no party delineation, and cares little about loftier notions of liberty and freedom.

Sound management and a steady hand on the tiller is what is required. That hand would be steadier if it was a bipartisan one but, at this stage, that might be too much to hope for and we'll all have to keep the (affordable generic) headache pills handy.