Freeloaders took a beating in the Supreme Court Thursday.
Turns out there is no constitutional right to choose to go without health insurance and expect someone else to pay for your care if you get sick or injured.
The court's 5-4 ruling upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's individual mandate triggered impassioned calls for the law's repeal from Republicans, including presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
The decision sent Kentucky's freshman senator, Republican Rand Paul, into such a tizzy that he issued a statement saying: "Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be 'constitutional' does not make it so."
Kentucky's senior senator, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, trashed the law, bragged that he had made 110 floor speeches against it and called for "common-sense, step-by-step reforms that protect Americans' access to the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at a lower cost."
And that, friends, is about as specific or detailed as McConnell gets, which tells us there's little chance Republicans will repeal the gist of the Affordable Care Act because they have nothing with which to replace it.
What's come to be called "Obamacare" is a market-based plan that is anything but radical. It was developed by Republicans and enacted in Massachusetts when Romney was governor. The American Medical Association and the insurance industry support it.
The law represents incremental progress and has the potential to bend the health care cost curve downward.
Except for the propaganda value of misrepresenting the law to stir up their base, Republicans should have no beef with the reforms, especially if they think they might actually have to govern soon.
Individual elements of the plan are popular and should be. Consumers who have to buy coverage on the individual market will know they're buying a policy that will actually take care of them when they need it. Insurance companies will no longer be able to refuse coverage or drive up premiums for people who have pre-existing medical conditions.
Insurers selling individual coverage will have to spend 80 percent of the premiums they collect on health care for their customers. As a result of that provision, 134,000 Kentucky families will share $15.3 million in rebates from insurance companies this year.
For those who still can't afford coverage, even after the insurance reforms take effect, there will be subsidies and an expansion of Medicaid, which means almost every American will have access to preventive care.
Other provisions aim at improving health and quality of care while reeling in costs and reducing waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare.
Obama's detractors are gleeful that the mandate to have insurance was upheld under Congress's power to tax, not the Constitution's Commerce Clause. They wasted no time in decrying this new tax on the American people.
Call it what you want, but it's not new. We already pay it every day.
After horrible stories of women in labor being turned away by hospitals, Congress in the 1980s required emergency rooms to treat everyone with no regard for ability to pay. Emergency room charity isn't cheap. Caring for the uninsured costs the insured $1,000 a year each. Health care costs are the biggest drag on the economy and can't be contained or controlled without universal coverage.
The Supreme Court case was brought by Republican attorneys general whose motives were political. It's hard to believe so much time and energy have been spent to achieve this small bit of progress on one of our country's biggest problems.
But with the partisan paralysis of Washington, any bit of progress is worth cheering.