As the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision on health reform trickled out, reaction began flowing in from Northwest lawmakers, health care officials and others. Here is a sampling of what people are saying:
Idaho First District Congressman Raúl Labrador said the decision by the Supreme Court “that Obamacare is constitutional undermines the concept of limited government embodied by the Tenth Amendment. Our Founding Fathers would be appalled that their vision of a limited government no longer exists.”
He said the court has declared that “Congress has the ability to regulate Americans’ behavior by using taxes to force them to act. This should frighten all Americans who believe in freedom and liberty. It is now more clear than ever American people need leaders committed to limited government.”
Labrador said the “underlying philosophy of Obamacare was always about more than just health care. The fundamental grievance that I have with this law, and in particular the individual mandate component, is that no government should ever be powerful enough to compel its citizens to purchase a product or a service under penalty of law. What is there now to prevent the federal government, or one of its agencies, from taxing us to compel the purchase of life insurance, a cell phone or any other product Washington deems is necessary for us all?”
Jay Inslee, Washington’s Democratic candidate for governor, said today’s ruling means “insurance companies can no longer deny people coverage based on pre-existing conditions; there can be no caps on lifetime coverage; young men and women just starting out on their career paths can stay on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26; and prescription drugs will become more affordable with the closing of the so-called Medicare ‘donut hole.’”
North Idaho Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, who’s been among the Idaho Legislature’s most outspoken opponents of the health care reform law, was deeply disappointed by today’s health care ruling.
“The state has no power to stop the federal government from taxing, so that kind of shoots any aggressive action to try and blunt the intrusion that I’ve been talking about over the last couple of years,” he said. Barbieri said he’s still analyzing the decision to see if there’s a way states can fight it, but he hasn’t found one yet.
“My gut reaction is the nanny state has now taken its final step to controlling just about everything that we do,” Barbieri said. “This is central planning at its worst, and it’s a major step toward the collectivist mindset that the federal government’s been moving toward for decades.”
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden finds something to celebrate in this morning’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, though the state didn’t succeed in getting the health care reform act overturned: The high court’s reasoning, he said, includes “a significant win for states’ rights.”
That’s because the court’s majority rejected the government’s argument that the individual mandate was justified under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, while upholding it instead under the taxing powers of Congress. “The whole argument that we raised was that the attempt by Congress here was an unconstitutional exercise of commerce clause power, and we were vindicated in that,” Wasden said. “The court said that this is in fact an unconstitutional exercise of commerce clause power, and said furthermore that this was not saved by the necessary and proper clause. The court then went on to say that this was a tax, and it was an exercise of congressional taxing power.”
He added, “The court then went on to say that the federal government could not coerce the state government to comply and expand its Medicaid program, that there was an agreement between the state and the federal government with regard to the current program. … So there is significant vindication in the arguments that we presented to the court.”
Idaho was one of 26 states suing to overturn the law, which Idaho lawmakers and Gov. Butch Otter strongly opposed.
Wasden said of the court’s reasoning, “It does matter. It’s not really so much the issue of today, but the issue of what the analysis under the Commerce Clause is that’s going to exist into the future, and what’s the relationship of the state government to the federal government into the future. These are very significant questions. It is precedent … that there is a limit under the commerce clause.”
Said Wasden, “What we’ve learned is that there is, in fact, a limit to that Commerce Clause power, that individuals cannot be compelled to engage in commerce. That’s very significant.”
Idaho’s state insurance director, Bill Deal, said he was surprised that this morning’s health care ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate. “So now we know, and we can move forward, with hopefully some good direction in mind,” he said.
As for a health insurance exchange in Idaho - which lawmakers refused to begin planning for during this year’s legislative session, betting that the law would be overturned - Deal said, “It leaves us basically at square one.”
Idaho had a $20 million grant to begin planning its exchange, but lawmakers rejected it. “That money’s essentially off the table,” Deal said. “So there are other grants that are available, but we’re going to have to really sit down and determine if we go for grants, if the Department of Insurance and Health & Welfare will get spending authority to move forward with what now would be implementation.”
It’s also unclear whether the federal government will now impose a federally run exchange on Idaho. “At this point I can’t tell you,” Deal said. He said his office is still working to “decipher” and “digest” the decision, and likely won’t know how it will proceed for several weeks.
Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, in response to this morning’s health care ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act, called for the act’s repeal.
“The Supreme Court has now ruled that it is a tax increase, underscoring the deception by which this law passed,” Risch said. “Those who voted for this, every Democrat in Congress, should join us in repealing this massive tax increase and replace it with a reasonable and understandable plan that reduces costs and allows Americans to choose the health care plan and provider they want.”
Idaho House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewistion, a retired physician, said this morning’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on health care reform “means we have a lot of work to do.”
Whether the law was upheld or not, he said, “the issues of cost and quality and access of health care to Americans wasn’t going to go away. But it just seems to me that this tool is available.” He said the now-upheld national law provides tools that Idaho can use to address those problems, including the individual mandate.
“The majority of the Supreme Court justices realized that you can’t run a health care system for a country without having everybody play,” Rusche said.
The Idaho Legislature, strongly opposed to the health care reform law, refused this year to accept millions in federal funds to start setting up a state-run health care exchange under the law. “It leaves us kind of behind,” Rusche said. “I know the Republican mantra is ‘we’ll just go and repeal it,’ but the fact is that it’s the law of the land, and my guess is that there will be some action to try to comply.”
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, who joined the lawsuit seeking to overturn the law, and was criticized for that decision by Democrats in the state, said in a news release that he was disappointed by the ruling but defended the lawsuit.
“Our system of government provides a series of checks and balances, allowing new laws—especially ones that raise major constitutional questions—to be tested in court. While we’re disappointed that this close decision did not find in the states’ favor with regard to the individual mandate, the country benefits from a thoughtful debate about the reach of federal power into the legal rights of the states and the personal financial decisions of all Americans,” said McKenna.
Since the Affordable Care Act was signed by the President, we have worked tirelessly to implement it in our state, with my firm belief that it was constitutional and would ultimately withstand legal challenge,” Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said in a news release.
“The real winners today, however, are the millions of Americans and Washingtonians who have and will now continue to benefit from this Act… And with this cloud of legal uncertainty removed, I look forward to the day not long from now when more than 800,000 people in our state will be able to use our Health Benefit Exchange to get the health insurance that they need but currently must go without.
“This is a historic decision that will allow Washington to continue as a leader in providing access to quality, affordable health care to its residents. I am excited for what this means, and thank and congratulate the President and all those responsible for their foresight and perseverance in getting us to this day,” Gregoire said.
In a news release, Washington Sen. Patty Murray called the decision a “victory for the health care security and stability of Washington families. Today’s ruling means that families and small business owners will continue to benefit from better access, more choices, and a health care system that no longer works only for those who can afford it. It means that health care decisions will be in the hands of patients and their doctors, and that insurance companies will be forced to compete for the business of Washington state families.”
She said the decision is “welcome news for all those across our state who are already benefiting from this law. It means that over 62,000 young adults in Washington will be allowed to keep their health coverage, that tens of thousands of Washington seniors will continue to receive checks for Medicare support, that hundreds of thousands of patients will continue to access free preventative services like mammograms and colonoscopies, and that millions of policy holders will continue to see the value of their premium dollar improve.”
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo today called the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the health care law “very disappointing,” and said, “It is not the ruling that the American people wanted.” Crapo said, “This law threatens our country’s financial strength and the American way of life.”
He said, “As a member of the Senate Finance Committee and the Gang of 6, I will continue to work to address our nation’s health care problems and to reform our tax code to make it simpler, not more complex and burdensome, for the American people. This ruling has put these issues squarely in front of Congress and the American people. With increased public awareness and clarity, we can improve our health care system and reform our tax code accordingly. Today’s ruling makes it even more important to do so.”
Crapo said that Republicans have said all along that the individual mandate was a tax after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act on that point. Democrats had insisted it wasn’t.
“It’s an incredibly big irony,” the Idaho Republican said.
President Obama rejected the GOP arguments that the penalties contained in the law amounted to a tax, and promised the American public he wouldn’t raise taxes, Crapo said. During the Senate debate on the Affordable Care Act, Crapo said he offered an amendment that would have stripped the bill of anything that violated Obama’s pledge. It was rejected.
“Now, we’re back into that argument,” he said. Although the law is constitutional, “this is still the bad law we said it was.”
Wayne Hoffman, head of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which opposes health care form, said, “Without question, the ruling is a major blow to freedom. That said, we are not done fighting. The health care system is broken. This law makes that system worse. We plan to continue presenting solutions that help lower costs and improve health outcomes.”
Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who was inside the courtroom when the ruling was read, said she is “disappointed the Supreme Court has decided to uphold ObamaCare – especially the individual mandate, which is an unprecedented expansion of government power… Now, after months of deliberation, the Supreme Court has ruled that while the law might be unworkable, it’s not unconstitutional. While I do not agree with the Court’s decision, I respect it and encourage others to do the same. The Court’s ruling will have no impact on Congress’ continuing efforts to repeal the law.
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson expressed disappointment with the Supreme Court’s decision, saying that the government “now has the ability to tax American citizens if they don’t purchase a private product and I remain concerned with the precedent that sets for the future.”
He added: “If Americans can be taxed for not purchasing health insurance, the government’s ability to tax, or punish, American citizens as a means of driving their behavior seems unlimited. It is difficult not to see this as an approval of the significant expansion of the power of the federal government into the everyday lives of citizens.”
Despite the Court’s ruling, Simpson is calling on his colleagues in Congress to repeal the entire law and work to enact market-oriented health care reforms that hold the real promise of lowering costs and increasing access.
Hannah Brass, Idaho legislative director at Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, issued a statement headed “Idaho Women Win with Today’s Supreme Court Decision, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest applauds preventative health coverage benefits that are already improving the lives of 283,000 Idahoans.”
Said Brass, “While we’re glad the Supreme Court upheld the important protections in the ACA, the real credit for the breakthrough legislation belongs to those who passed it. The Affordable Care Act marks the biggest advance for women’s health in a generation, and we thank President Barack Obama for this leadership on this issue.”
A business group representing retailers across the country said the Supreme Court “missed an opportunity to redress the many shortcoming of the laws.”
The National Retail Federation said: “As it stands, the law wrongly focuses more on penalizing employers and the private sector than reducing health costs.”
The retail group said the law will have a negative effect on business and restrain job growth.
Washington State’s race to adopt and health care reforms, including setting up a new Health Exchange designed to help 477,000 people afford insurance, is paying off, said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.
The exchange takes effect in 2014 and Kreidler said the state intends to participate in the Medicaid expansion that will absord another 328,000 poor adults without children.
“I’m very pleased the Supreme Court chose to uphold the Affordable Care Act,” he said in prepared remarks Thursday morning.
He noted that 2.4 million people will no longer face lifetime caps on their insurance coverage and that 52,000 young people may stay on their parents’ plans.