Wednesday, July 4, 2012
It was the most anticipated U.S. Supreme Court ruling in years and at just past 10 a.m. Thursday it was issued.
The High Court upheld the Affordable Healthcare Act, also known as Obamacare, in a 5-4 decision.
The main question the court answered was whether it is constitutional for the government to force citizens to purchase health insurance policies.
The decision was announced by Chief Justice John Roberts who said that part of the law can be construed as a tax.
“Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness,” he said.
Roberts was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor in upholding the Healthcare law.
Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.
The dissenters, in a written statement, said the act “exceeds federal power both in mandating the purchase of health insurance.”
The decision will impact the way all Americans receive healthcare, especially when most of the law is implemented in 2014.
The ruling rejected two of the law’s three arguments in support of the insurance requirement.
But the court said the mandate can be construed as a tax.
The court found problems with the law’s expansion of Medicaid, but even there said the expansion could proceed as long as the federal government does not threaten to withhold states’ entire Medicaid allotment if they don’t take part in the law’s extension.
The reactions to the ruling came from all over Thursday as political figures expressed their feelings.
• Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party issued a press release “cheering” the decision.
“This is a huge day for the President and the people of this country. Americans will now have the opportunity to live a longer, healthier life with a less expensive health care system,” Harpootlian wrote. “It is now time to work even harder for the President and get him reelected in November. He has only begun the fight to turn this country around from the Republican system that benefits the few to an America in which all of have a chance to grow and prosper.”
• Gloria Tinubu, Democratic candidate for the new District 7 Congressional seat, said she is “excited” about the ruling because it is in the best interest of the country and state.
“It will provide a much needed recourse to citizens who cannot afford healthcare,” she said. “South Carolina has always ranked above the nation when it comes to the uninsured on every level. This is a much needed support system and safety net.”
When asked about this becoming a focus of the campaign between herself and Republican Tom Rice, Tinubu said this “is not a time for partisan politics.” She said she hopes Rice “will do what is in the best interests of the citizens by supporting this.”
The Georgetown Times left a message for Rice but the call was not returned.
• U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham noted when the healthcare law was being debated “Democrats vehemently denied this was a tax on the American people. The Obama Administration also denied it was a tax. However, when the case went to Court, they argued, for constitutional purposes, it was a tax.”
Graham said he thought the individual mandate would not be upheld because you cannot compel someone to enter into commerce.
“However, I have always been afraid the broad power to tax could be used by the Court to justify Obamacare,” he said.
“The problem for the American people is this is a massive tax increase at a time they can least afford it and Obamacare will jeopardize the quality and accessibility of health care. Now Congress has a chance to Repeal and Replace Obamacare, one of the largest tax increases on the American people, with common-sense health care reform we can afford. I am glad I voted against one of the largest tax increases on the American people in modern history for the purpose of creating government-controlled health care.”
• Congressman Tim Scott said he will not “sit down and allow this bureaucratic nightmare to harm the American people. We will now roll up our sleeves, and redouble our efforts at repeal.”
Scott said there are common sense, free-market ideas that will help improve the healthcare system.
‘We will work tirelessly to lower health care costs, repeal the tax known as the individual mandate and put health care decisions back in the hands of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and their doctors,” Scott said.
• U.S. Senator DeMint said the American people will not fail to “stop this government takeover of health care.”
He said the ruling “doesn’t make Obamacare any less dangerous to our nation’s health. Freedom-loving Americans are disappointed, but we cannot be discouraged.”
DeMint is urging governors across America “to stop implementing the health care exchanges that would help implement the harmful effects of this misguided law.”
Medical field reactions
Georgetown Hospital System president and CEO Bruce Bailey said he is glad the Court clarified the constitutional issues on the law but that doesn’t resolve uncertainty about the future of health care reform in America.
“America’s health care policy has been the subject of spirited political debate for decades, and it will continue to be so well into the future,” Bailey stated. “At Georgetown Hospital System, we understand that our patients need the best care we can give them today, tomorrow, next week and well into the future. Thus, we remain intensely focused on providing high-quality care while enhancing efficiency and controlling costs.”
• Dr. Gerald Harmon of Waccamaw Family Practice said he was surprised at the ruling.
“From all the polling I have read, about 75 percent of Americans said they do not support the individual mandates, so the majority were expecting a 180 degree different ruling.”
Harmon said he is not a person who likes to force people to do things, which is why he does not support the must-have-insurance requirement.
“I believe in the rights of individuals. We do not like socialistic approaches to things,” he said.
Harmon also noted, because of the Emergency Medical Act, no one is denied medical care under the current system because if someone shows up at an emergency room doctors have to treat them whether or not they have insurance.
“That is paid for by the taxpayers,” he said.
He said he does not like the way the law was implemented in 2010.
“It was crafted in the dark of night and was forced down the throats of many legislators,” Harmon said.
Harmon said there are some good parts about the law. Most notably, the requirement that insurance companies provide coverage — albeit at a higher rate — to people with preexisting conditions. He also likes the provision that allows people to stay on their parent’s policies until age 26.
• Todd Atwater, CEO of the South Carolina Medical Association, said the ruling was disappointing.
“The SCMA has opposed Federal health reform legislation since its beginning and believes we have missed a critical opportunity to start afresh with a more sustainable law. The SCMA will continue to advocate for health reform that is both fiscally sound and, most importantly, places a priority on the physician-patient relationship,” Atwater wrote.
Private citizen reaction
Georgetown resident Jan Avant said she sees some good in the ruling.
“It’s going to give the currently uninsurable a right to be insured,” she wrote on the Georgetown Times Facebook page. I’m thinking it should lower the overall cost to health insurance due to all the new competing ‘affordable’ policies that are going to come out. They can’t force people to have insurance but they can tax the ones who don’t, which will help cover the costs of people who can’t pay for their healthcare bills due to lack of insurance.”
• Samantha Foxworth said she feels most of those opposed to the ruling are upset because they are being forced to purchase insurance.
“Some people go years without going to a doctor,” she wrote. [I] bet people will start missing work more and putting that insurance they are forced to pay for to extreme use.”
• Tammy Bright asked what about those who work but cannot afford to have healthcare taken out of their checks?
“If you live paycheck to paycheck and every check you get is accounted for towards bills, gas, groceries and such where are they supposed to get the money for coverage? Next thing you know we will be standing in line to receive our monthly rations of sugar, rice, flour, toilet paper and such,” she wrote.
By Scott Harper