Northeast Times

Health care ruling yields a mixed reaction

Start­Frag­ment

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

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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