U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — aka health care reform or Obamacare — and naturally was happy last week when the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly upheld the law.
“This is really a win for the American people,” she said in a conference call with reporters on the afternoon of June 28, a few hours after the law was upheld.
Schwartz (D-13th dist.) said it was “unfortunate” that some Republicans are still working to repeal the law. She accuses them of politicizing the matter.
Of course, the only chance for repeal is if Republican Mitt Romney defeats President Barack Obama in November and the GOP maintains control of the House of Representatives and gains control of the Senate.
Schwartz wants to move on to issues such as the economy, jobs, budget deficit, transportation and student loans.
“Republicans should be working with us,” she said.
Schwartz backs consumer protection provisions of the law such as covering children with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health policies until age 26. Supporters claim that up to 30 million uninsured people could be covered by the new law by 2014.
The congresswoman plans to lobby Gov. Tom Corbett about another provision that would expand Medicaid.
Schwartz said she didn’t believe the court would overturn the law. The court heard cases involving lawsuits filed against the law by the National Federation of Independent Business and 26 offices of state attorneys general, including Pennsylvania.
The plaintiffs argued that the government did not have the power to require Americans — generally young people and healthy people — to buy health insurance.
It was all but a given that four liberal justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — would vote to uphold the law.
Justice Anthony Kennedy was pegged as the most likely to join them in the majority.
However, it was Chief Justice John Roberts who sided with the liberals and saved Obama’s signature first-term accomplishment. Back in 2005, then-Sen. Obama voted against confirming Roberts and criticized him while running for president.
Justices Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito agreed that the entire law should be overturned.
Schwartz credited Roberts with following the Constitution. The chief justice said he might not have voted for the law if he had been in Congress and rejected the Obama administration’s primary argument that the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution requires Americans to buy insurance.
Instead, Roberts upheld the law based on the taxing authority of Congress, a secondary argument put forth by the Obama administration.
Obamacare opponents were disappointed in the ruling and particularly jolted that Roberts provided the deciding vote.
“The court threaded a Constitutional needle in redefining the individual mandate as a federal tax,” said Ken Hoagland, chairman of Restore America’s Voice Foundation, a grassroots campaign that collected 1.6 million petitions to repeal the act.
Local hospital executives were taking a wait-and-see approach.
“It has been long awaited in health care sectors to hear the final decision of the Supreme Court on the legality of the Affordable Care Act,” said Kathleen Kinslow, president and CEO of Aria Health. “It is a relief to have the final direction and be able to move forward with continued improvement in quality and efficiency in patient care in accordance with the legislation.”
Mercy Health System and Catholic Health East, parents of Nazareth Hospital, issued the following statement: “Because of the length and complexity of the court’s decision, we will take time to carefully read the court’s ruling in its entirety and evaluate its ramifications.
“For years, Mercy Health System and Catholic Health East have advocated for a reformed health care system that provides compassionate, person-centered care, improves the health of populations and provides higher quality at a lower cost. Our strategic vision calls for us to be a transforming, healing presence in the communities we are privileged to serve, and to continue our efforts to advocate for the poor and underserved.”
Like Schwartz, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D-1st dist.) voted for Obamacare. He called the court ruling a victory for Obama, supporters of the law and the American people.
“Insurance companies can no longer discriminate against patients with pre-existing conditions, and seniors will be able to afford the medicines they so desperately need,” he said. “My only concern is that the court removed the ability to ensure that states expand Medicaid to hard-hit Americans like my constituents. We’ll have to keep working to improve on that provision.”
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, described himself as “extremely disappointed.” He said the law violates the tradition of limited government and personal liberty under the Constitution.
“The Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t change the fact that President Obama’s health care law is a terrible policy that will impose new taxes, increase the cost of health care and cost our country jobs,” he said. “It is now up to Congress to repeal Obamacare.”
At the state level, Sens. Shirley Kitchen and Mike Stack expressed happiness that the law was upheld.
Mayor Michael Nutter, the newly installed president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, applauded the decision.
“Mayors know firsthand the hardship of American families who have no medical insurance and the struggles they face as a result,” he said. “Access to affordable and quality health care is not only necessary, but also the moral compass by which our nation will be judged.”
The Philadelphia-based Independence Hall Tea Party Association held a news conference at Independence Mall minutes after the ruling.
Teri Adams, the group’s president, believes the act will balloon the budget deficit and do nothing to drive down medical costs. She called the ruling “disturbing.”
“Our members will not rest until Obamacare is repealed, which we are confident will occur under the presidency of Mitt Romney,” she said. ••EndFragment