The Supreme Court ruled this morning that President Obama’s health care reform can move forward, with some complicated caveats around the expansion of Medicaid. The take home point of the ruling: The controversial “individual mandate” to buy health insurance is constitutional, because the penalty for not doing so is a tax and the feds have the power to tax you.
Colorlines.com’s economic justice contributor Imara Jones will have an in-depth analysis of the ruling and its impact tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s some quick context on one of the stakes: the number of people who don’t have access to health insurance.
As of the 2010 Census, 49.9* million people were living in the United States without health coverage. People of color have long been grossly overrepresented among those millions, particularly Latinos.
Percentage of race/ethnic group uninsured in 2010
Hispanic origin — 30.7 percent
Black — 20.8 percent
Asian — 18.1 percent
White, not Hispanic — 11.7 percent
[Note: Colorlines.com reports official data on “Asians” when available, but it’s important to recognize the significant concerns about the accuracy of that data, because it clumps widely disparate Asian immigrant communities.]
The Affordable Care Act is based on the premise that system-wide health care costs are driven up by the fact that uninsured people inevitably enter the health system at some point, and their care is significantly more expensive as a consequence of having been locked out of it until crisis. Put differently, the idea is that a system that ignores the needs of 50 million residents will collapse upon itself.
*This post initially cited an incorrect overall number for people without health coverage in the U.S.