Published on Thursday, June 28, 2012
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the health insurance mandate in the Affordable Care Act is constitutional under the government's taxing power.
According to the SCOTUS blog sponsored by Bloomberg Law, where the court's landmark opinion was described as it was announced, Justice Anthony Kennedy, speaking for the dissenters, said the "entire act before us is invalid in its entirety." Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the majority in the 5-4 ruling.
The decision is here: www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-393c3a2.pdf
Reaction was swift and widespread. Here's a smattering:
-- House Speaker Robert DeLeo, to a handful of State House reporters, "Oh, very, very pleased, very excited. This is an issue that has divided our country now for a period of time, and hopefully we can put it past us and move forward. But most importantly, what the law provides in terms of health care for all the citizens in this country I think it is very important. Although I will say I think we here in Massachusetts have been ahead of the game as we always are here in Massachusetts in terms of what we did in providing health care for all our citizens. I think as a matter of fact we are probably approaching something like 99 percent. So I think it has shown that it does work in Massachusetts and I think it can work across America as well.
"Quite frankly, if the Supreme Court came out the other way, I think the Massachusetts health care law has been validated already in terms of the number of people who insured and that it's working. So I don't think we needed a Supreme Court decision to further validate it. I felt again, if this was not a favorable decision in the Supreme Court it would still be my opinion that we move forward with what we have here in Massachusetts, and we are also going to hopefully move forward with cost containment here in Massachusetts and again become the first state in the nation to tackle this issue."
-- Senate President Therese Murray, in an interview at the State House with the News Service, "Well obviously it is good news. It is very good news for the people of the country. Here we are on prostate awareness day, if you had a pre-existing condition, you wouldn't be covered for prostate cancer. How ridiculous is that? I think they made the right decision. I'm very happy that they did it. Of course Massachusetts has always been at the forefront. We still have our insurance, but this means we will continue to receive the money from Medicaid with our expansion, with the expansion that we did." Murray said she had concerns about payments from Medicaid, that would have been in jeopardy, and "now it isn't and that is very good news for all of us."
-- The Massachusetts Medical Society was pleased with the ruling. "Universal coverage is a state-federal partnership - no state can do this on its own," said MMS President Richard Aghababian. "We've accomplished a great deal since 2006 - and there's still a lot of work to do."
-- National Federation of Independent Businesses State Director Bill Vernon said the ruling "guarantees that Massachusetts residents will have their most personal health care decisions made by politicians and bureaucrats in Washington and in other states whom they've never met and whom they'll have a hard time influencing in the future." Vernon added, "The tragedy in this ruling is that Massachusetts residents are now at the mercy of politicians from other states and bureaucrats in Washington whose decisions won't be based on what is best for Massachusetts. Small businesses here will be overwhelmed by mandates, taxes and burdens imposed on them by people whom we cannot as easily hold accountable."
-- GOP strategist Holly Robichaud, via Twitter, "This decision is going to fire up the Republican base, and tea party like never before. Get out the Dems in Nov"
-- Ron Pollack of Families USA called the ruling "a clear, unambiguous and complete victory for longg-overdue health care reform. It sends an unmistakable message that the building of a better, fairer health care system will continue to move forward." Upholding the law means young adults can stay on their parents' plans until they turn 26 and tens of millions of uninsured people will gain health coverage, Pollack said.
-- Connecticut Congressman Chris Murphy, via Twitter, "Whew! Supreme Court does the right thing. This is a good day for health care in America."
-- Benjamin Day, Mass-Care, in a statement, "This is good news for the millions of uninsured American residents who will receive subsidized health care when subsidies start going into effect in 2014! I do have concerns about how the individual mandate works - it essentially places the entire burden of sky-rocketing health care costs, which are caused by profit-driven health care companies, on the shoulders of uninsured families. In short, it turns a financial crisis caused by our disfunctional health care system, and it into a crisis for lower-income families. Our experience in Massachusetts tells us that national reform will lead to a large expansion of insurance coverage, a more moderate improvement in access to care, but troubling rises in underinsurance and either no impact or acceleration of health care costs."
-- Romney press secretary Andrea Saul, moments after the decision via Twitter, "Over $100k already raised online for @MittRomney for #FullRepeal"
-- Attorney General Martha Coakley, in a statement: "We applaud the Court's decision today. Massachusetts served as a model for national health care reform and we have already experienced the many benefits of increasing access to quality, affordable health care. Today's decision is a victory for millions of Americans who will see increased access to care, coverage that cannot be denied based on pre-existing medical conditions, and the ability to keep their children covered until they turn 26. Massachusetts has already begun tackling the next great health care challenge - controlling costs for our families and businesses. With today's decision, I hope our nation will continue to move forward and do the same."
-- Boston Phoenix executive editor Peter Kadzis, via Twitter, "Romney care wins!"
-- Rep. James McGovern of Worcester, via Twitter, "Glad #SCOTUS upheld will of people&work of elected branches of gov't. We must continue to ensure health care system works for all Americans."
-- Sen. John Kerry, in a statement, "This is an important day for the Supreme Court and an important day for Americans who need affordable health care coverage. But I hope this will also be an important day for our politics and our discourse. For the past three years, opponents of health reform did everything they could to distort and deceive. They tried to scare the American public with outright lies about 'death panels' and 'socialized medicine.' When that didn't work, they came up with a new strategy: claim that the individual mandate the Republican Party itself had invented was unconstitutional. Today, the conservative Roberts Court put an end to that debate. Those who have sought to demonize health reform need to put an end to their scare tactics. This needs to begin a new day, where the test is not what you can oppose but what you can propose. Enough time has been wasted in the United States Congress on pointless repeal votes designed to score political points. Too much time has been wasted on a legislative temper tantrum. We need to get back to the business of implementing a constitutional law that will lower health care costs for everyone and give 33 million Americans the health coverage they deserve."
-- Mass. Health Connector, via Twitter, Lots of smiles here! Thx @scotusblog for keeping us updated!"
-- Mass. Association of Health Plans President and CEO Lora Pelligrini, in a statement, "We are pleased that the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Massachusetts is home to the country's top-rated health plans for clinical quality and member satisfaction. Many of the consumer protections included in the Affordable Care Act were already in place in Massachusetts, including guaranteeing access to coverage regardless of health status, access to external review of coverage decisions, and ensuring that consumers can renew their coverage regardless of medical history. MAHP and our member health plans will continue our efforts with state and federal policymakers on implementing the Affordable Care Act in Massachusetts and we remain committed to working with the Governor and members of his Administration, the Attorney General, and the Legislature on payment reform legislation that creates a more effective health care system and provides meaningful cost savings for Massachusetts employers and working families."
-- Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, in a statement, "We're elated. The court's ruling is a milestone victory for people across the United States. Some 30 million low- to moderate-income people will now get their health insurance. Young adults will be able to stay on their parents' insurance. Individuals with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage. Small businesses will get their tax credit to provide insurance to their workers. This ruling ends the constitutional debate around healthcare reform, and it should end the rancorous political debate as well. It's time to move forward with reform and put people before politics. The health of our nation is more important than the health of political parties and political careers."
-- Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, in a statement, "Like many others who believe that access to healthcare is fundamental, I strongly support the Supreme Court's decision today to uphold the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act. This legislation, like the law we passed in Massachusetts, will extend coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, level the playing field between consumers and insurance companies and help us to contain runaway healthcare spending. I am pleased that the benefits we have enjoyed since the law passed remain on firm legal footing and that the Obama Administration is able to continue with implementation of this groundbreaking legislation."
- Compiled by Michael Norton and Colleen Quinn, State House News Service
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