Today is a great day for the American people, particularly working class families and people living in poverty. It is a day when we have seen the conscience of our nation and the cause of social justice triumph over ideology, the timid, and the peddlers of fear.
Catholics Democrats applauds and thanks, first and foremost, President Barack Obama and all those who put our nation on a path to universal health care. They include Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democratically-led 111th Congress, who had the vision and courage to use their political capital to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) at a time when political divisions were reaching historic proportion.
We also applaud and thank the Justices of the Supreme Court who supported the constitutionality of the ACA and particularly Chief Justice John Roberts, a Catholic, for his vision, courage, and his break from his conservative colleagues on the high court. His support was the deciding swing vote that upheld the law. Although disagreeing with the so-called and misnamed "mandate" of the ACA, Chief Justice Roberts was able to recognize the constitutionality of the legislation on other grounds, thus enabling the extension of health care coverage to more 32 million Americans who otherwise would not have it.
As Catholics, we know that nothing animates the Catholic imagination more than helping the poor. We can only speculate about the role that Chief Justices Roberts' faith may have played in his decision. But surely it can be argued that his decision represents a Catholic sensibility.
While the media and others will primarily focus on the important political aspects of this decision, Catholic Democrats is mindful of the work before us in ensuring that all Americans have access to health care as a fundamental human right, a longstanding belief of the Catholic Social Justice Tradition. The high court struck down the requirement that states must comply with expanded Medicaid provisions. The discretion that states now have to limit the expansion of their Medicaid programs will put the health care coverage for millions of Americans at risk. Only time will tell what the impact of this will be on uninsured people. However, we expect that it will be important for social justice advocacy groups to fight for health insurance reform in those states that choose not to expand Medicaid coverage.
In addition to those living in states where Medicaid coverage may not be expanded, it is incumbent on our nation's leaders - and indeed all Americans - to be mindful that even as written, the ACA still would not have covered 26 million Americans according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. As one might expect, the burden of being uninsured today is borne predominantly by our African American and Latino sisters and brothers. The uninsured rates for African Americans and Latinos are 21% and 31% respectively, while the White Non-Hispanic uninsured rate is 12%.
Today is a great day for America but there is still much work to be done. As we look to the future, let us be mindful of the past and all those who helped forge this victory over the past century. In particular, we wish to remember Senator Edward M. Kennedy and his tireless efforts as a voice for the voiceless in advocating for health care coverage for all. His words from more than 30 years ago are as apt today as they were then: "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."