OLYMPIA, June 28.–Washington State Wire’s email is overflowing with statements from various figures in public life about the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision Thursday morning to uphold the “individual mandate” in the Obama Administration’s 2010 health-care overhaul.
Good, bad, neutral – we’re seeing it all. Here’s what we’ve gotten so far — we’ll let you sort it out for yourself.
Victory for Families
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.—“This is 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.
“It is also welcome news for all those across our state who are already benefitting 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.
“This decision offers a chance for those on all sides in this long and impassioned debate to begin the process of moving forward. It is time for us to come together to find common ground. As this bill continues to be implemented, there is no reason why we can’t all work together to fix what’s not working and take advantage of what is.
“This law is the product of the stories and struggles of millions of Americans, including countless Washington state families that shared their stories with me. Over the last three years I have heard from young people who couldn’t find affordable coverage, seniors facing the Medicare donut hole, and everyday Washingtonians who were suddenly faced with catastrophic illnesses.
“Today, with this ruling, my hope is that they have been provided peace of mind knowing that the change they fought for has not been defeated.”
The States Lost
Attorney General Rob McKenna – “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.
“Now the federal government must treat the states as equal partners, as both seek to provide health coverage for the poor.”
The States Won
Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire – “I applaud today’s Supreme Court decision. 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. I’m extremely pleased that the majority of the Court agreed on the merits of the law highlighted in the briefs that I and others submitted on its behalf.
“The real winners today, however, are the millions of Americans and Washingtonians who have and will now continue to benefit from this Act. Among them are more than 50,000 young adults in our state who have gained insurance coverage through their parents’ plan, our more than 60,000 seniors who’ve annually received assistance to purchase needed prescription drugs, and the millions here that are no longer subject to unfair practices by insurance companies. 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.”
Only Romney Can Save Us
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus – “Today’s Supreme Court decision sets the stakes for the November election. Now, the only way to save the country from ObamaCare’s budget-busting government takeover of health care is to elect a new president.
“Under President Obama’s signature legislation, health care costs continue to skyrocket, and up to 20 million Americans could lose their employer-based coverage. A panel of unelected bureaucrats now has the unprecedented authority to come between elderly patients and their doctors. Meanwhile, the rules and regulations placed on job creators and small businesses make it nearly impossible to hire new workers at a time when Americans desperately need jobs.
“We need market-based solutions that give patients more choice, not less. The answer to rising health care costs is not, and will never be, Big Government.
“We must elect a president who understands the economy, respects free enterprise, and can provide the leadership we now so desperately need. On Election Day, we must elect Mitt Romney and put America on the path toward a brighter economic future and successful health care reform.”
Will Bring Stability
Scott Bond, president of the Washington State Hospital Association – “We are pleased the law will go forward because hospitals have a huge financial stake in the health insurance expansions. The law contains enormous reductions in hospital payments – hospitals’ contribution to pay for the health insurance expansions. Over the next ten years, federal reductions in hospital payments are projected to be $155 billion nationwide, and $2.7 billion in Washington State alone. If the law works as intended, many more people who are currently uninsured will become insured. They will be able to get primary and specialty care, will not rely on the ER for their care, and when they are hospitalized the hospital will receive some payment. Hospitals that treat a high number of the poor and uninsured will not be as burdened; the special government payments that support them will be less critical.”
“The prospect of abandoning the health care expansions but keeping the $2.7 billion in reductions was deeply troubling to Washington’s hospital leaders. This would have been destabilizing for hospitals and health care for all patients.
“The Supreme Court decision gives states the option to expand Medicaid coverage to very low-income adults. People who will be covered by this expansion are working at low-wage jobs but currently ineligible for Medicaid. The Washington State Hospital Association will strongly advocate for the Medicaid expansion in our state.”
A Big Surprise
State Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville – “I consistently heard concerns from people in my district and across the state that the federal government was overreaching in requiring everyone to purchase insurance. I’m frankly a little surprised by the decision to mostly uphold the law, but for me it doesn’t change anything; my focus will remain on improving our health-care system for the people of Washington.
“No one really knew what to expect from this ruling, so from the day the federal reform law was adopted my approach was to address the biggest issues facing us in health care: increasing access to quality care and driving down the cost of insurance,” said Becker. “We still need to accomplish those goals, and I’ve already begun drafting legislation for next year to move our state forward in a positive direction.”
Unworkable but Not Unconstitutional
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. – “As a mom with two young children, a wife who helps balance the family budget, and someone who helped run a family-owned small business, I am disappointed the Supreme Court has decided to uphold ObamaCare – especially the individual mandate, which is an unprecedented expansion of government power. The health care law that passed Congress over the will of the American people two years ago was a disastrous law that raised costs, made it harder for small businesses to hire employees, and cut Medicare, among other things. 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. In fact, we are more determined than ever to repeal it and replace it with something better.
“Instead of celebrating, President Obama should recognize the inherent problems with his law and work with Republicans to find better solutions. Together, we should implement a series of common-sense, step-by-step reforms that will put patients in charge of their health care decisions and use the principles of choice and competition to expand access, lower costs, and improve quality.”
Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle: “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court gives us the potential to stem the tide of Washington’s unraveling healthcare system. This gives us the possibility of a properly functioning insurance market, to expand coverage to hundreds of thousands of people in this state who do not have reliable access to health insurance. We have tried guaranteeing issue/renewal without a requirement that everyone participate in the system. It didn’t work in the 1990s. With this ruling, the exchange and the market rules we have established in Washington give us the chance to bring people into the insurance system. This will stop the cost shift of uncompensated care that drives up rates and, when combined with ongoing efforts to improve delivery, could bring down costs over time.
“In the two years since the Affordable Care Act was passed, over 1.2 million people in Washington have received critical preventative care without the burden of costly co-payments. Seven hundred men and women with pre-existing conditions have found protection in the Affordable Care Act. And 50,000 young adults are able to remain on their parents insurance until the age of 26.
“The Affordable Care Act provided the first substantive changes to a broken system and the first sign of relief for people who had no health security.”
Nasty Republican Attorneys General
Jay Inslee, former congressman and currently Democratic candidate for governor – “Today, in a majority ruling by Justices appointed by Presidents of both parties, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act.
“What this means for Washingtonians is that 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.’
“The Supreme Court upheld this law despite enormous political pressure by Republican Attorneys General from around the country who tried to make this a partisan, political issue.
“It is my hope that Republicans do not see today’s ruling as an opportunity for further partisan bickering. Instead, we need both parties to finally come together and make this law work for the American people.
“Now, with this issue settled by the Supreme Court, let’s all focus on the most pressing issue we face – getting our economy moving again by creating good-paying jobs for the middle-class.”
Please Send Me Money
Suzan DelBene, Democratic candidate in 1st Congressional District – “I’m sure you have heard the great news about the Supreme Court upholding the health care law.
“As I’ve traveled the district, I’ve heard from voters worried that they are one illness away from financial disaster. This historic decision means we can move forward to continue the work President Obama started with the Affordable Care Act to ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health care.
“But one thing we now know for certain is that shadowy outside groups are only going to double down their efforts. We know the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove will not give up. They will work even harder to elect an extreme, right-wing Tea Partier like John Koster.
“Contribute now to help us have the strongest support possible before Saturday’s FEC deadline.
“This morning Republicans in Congress have said they will try to repeal the law. We can’t let this happen.
“That’s why in the next 48 hours we need to make sure we have the strongest showing of support for President Obama’s health care law and help Democrats running for Congress like myself. All eyes are on our fundraising totals as a referendum on the ruling. Let’s show our commitment.
“Contribute now before Saturday’s deadline.
“One thing you can be sure of – if you send me to Congress, I will never stop working to ensure the health and economic security of working families across the 1st Congressional District. So, thank you for standing with me now at this critical crossroads of our campaign and through Election Day in November. Please show support before the deadline.”
It’s Maria Cantwell’s Fault
Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, candididate for U.S. Senate – “Today, the Supreme Court of the United States did something none of us expected – they held that the Affordable Care Act is not in violation of the Constitution.
“While this outcome is unexpected, it does affim what we’ve known all along – it defines this legislation as a tax on the middle class. When President Obama and Senate Democrats were selling this law to the public, they frequently denied calling the penalty a ‘tax.’ Justice Roberts makes it clear that this penalty absolutely is a tax, and, further iterates that the ACA’s constitutionality hinges on the penalty being defined as such.
“Furthermore, the ruling doesn’t change the fact that the ACA is bad policy. The people of the United States are still very much against the Health Care Act, and when I’m elected to the US Senate, I’ll work beside the legislators to see it repealed and replaced with something that actually increases coverage and brings down health care costs.
“Maria Cantwell’s unwavering support of this law shows that she has no hesitation to see the federal government expand its reach into a family’s most important and private decisions. Health care choices should be decisions between a family, a patient and a physician – without federal bureaucrats. It also shows that Maria is more than happy to tax middle-class families.
“It’s clear that Cantwell has no grasp on how to reform the health care system in a way that will bring down costs and increase coverage.
“I want to see health care costs become more affordable for the average American, but this is not the way. We need a policy that increases competition and flexibility, that allows for the sale of insurance across state lines, and lets the markets lower costs.”
Could Bankrupt Any State
Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee—“There’s been so much uncertainty surrounding health-care policy in recent years that it’s been difficult to know what to expect and how to move forward. Although some differences of opinion may remain, I am glad the Supreme Court’s decision settled the constitutional questions surrounding the federal reform law. I just hope people realize that the reform process isn’t over; there’s a lot of work yet to be done.
“In its current form, the federal health-care law could bankrupt any state. We need to ask whether the policies our state is pursuing encourage affordable choices for health care insurance. The next question must be whether it pencils out from a budget standpoint because there’s no sense in making empty promises.
“The Supreme Court’s decision to limit the Medicaid expansion shouldn’t be taken lightly. I’ve worked hard to make Washington’s Medicaid program more sustainable, but the truth is the program in its current form is a sinking ship. The court said that states cannot be forced to participate in the Medicaid expansion and we need to give the matter careful consideration before agreeing to potentially add hundreds of thousands of new enrollees.
“If today’s ruling means there’s a new focus on health-care policy, then that would be a positive development. If people see it as the finish line for reform, we’re in trouble because our current system simply isn’t sustainable.
“Health care isn’t free. People need information about their care, choice in their coverage and clarity on what it costs. The most important thing is that we keep as many options on the table as possible while trying to move forward in a positive direction.”
One of the Largest Tax Increases in History
Dr. Roger Stark, Washington Policy Center – “The court has spoken and the health care law stands. But most Americans oppose this law, and most Washingtonians oppose the individual mandate. They believe, rightly, that the law will result in higher costs, fewer choices, and worse care for them and their families.” A recent KING 5 poll of 500 residents throughout Washington state found 64% of respondents opposed the individual health insurance mandate, and nearly half dislike the entire ACA.
“Today the Supreme Court did in fact find that the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution does not grant Congress and the President authority to force Americans to purchase health insurance. But a majority of justices interpreted the mandate as a tax, making this one of the largest tax increases in American history.”
Demonstrates Unpredictability of Court System
House Minority Whip Bill Hinkle, R-Cle Elum–“Today the Supreme Court did in fact find that the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution does not grant Congress and the President authority to force Americans to purchase health insurance. But a majority of justices interpreted the mandate as a tax, making this one of the largest tax increases in American history.”
“The close U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the 2010 Affordable Care Act reminds us of the unpredictability of our judiciary system, but that it remains an important component of our checks-and-balances system of government. The court ruled the individual mandate is constitutional under Congress’s taxing power, which was a surprise to many people given the fact the Obama administration has said the individual mandate is not a tax. We now know for sure that it is a tax, which means the IRS will reach further into the finances of many Americans.
“Irrespective of the court’s ruling, there continues to be major fundamental problems with Obamacare. First, it fails to address the rising costs of health care and health insurance. Secondly, as our economy continues to struggle, it is very harmful to employers and makes it less likely they will hire new workers today and into the future. And, finally, Obamacare is unsustainable and will add significantly to our deficit and national debt.
“As this judicial chapter comes to a close, a new legislative chapter has yet to be written. Even the most ardent supporters of Obamacare, including our state insurance commissioner, say that it is not perfect. How we move forward as a state is critical. At the top of this list is the Health Benefit Exchange, which will create a new health insurance marketplace in our state for individuals and small businesses. We need to be thorough and cautious with its design, and ensure that it will work. We need a program that is focused on individual health, affordability and access – one that demands accountability from both the federal and state government.
“House Republicans look forward to being at the table and continuing to offer solutions, but we are mindful of the top-down policies of the early 1990s that led to the collapse of our state’s health insurance market. We must get it right this time.”
Washington Already a ‘Pace Car’ State
Doug Porter, director of Washington State Health Care Authority – “This is a welcome ruling. Under Medicaid expansion, we expect to bring up to another half million low-income Washington residents into meaningful coverage – including many non-disabled childless adults. We also intend to be active partners with the Health Benefits Exchange, which will be the new marketplace for affordable health coverage in our state as well as the eligibility portal for most Medicaid-eligible individuals. Between the Medicaid expansion and the Exchange, we anticipate hundreds of thousands more Washington residents will be able to access new coverage options in a system designed to provide maximum choice and prompt service to the health consumer.
“The court’s limitations on the federal government’s ability to penalize states for not expanding Medicaid coverage has no immediate effect on Washington State, which has been long committed to the Affordable Care Act and its goal of reducing the uninsured and expanding health insurance choices for everyone. In fact, Washington has been looked to as ‘a pace car state’ for the work that is already underway to implement the Affordable Care Act. There is plenty more work ahead, and we look forward to successful completion of the job at hand. Everyone at the Health Care Authority is breathing a sigh of relief with the questions swirling around the Affordable Care Act finally answered.”
Bigger Things to Worry About
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash.—“I was disappointed in today’s ruling because of the health care law’s failure to address our biggest health care challenges, as well as the expansion of federal power this decision implies.
“Two years after the massive government health care bill was passed, families and seniors are still grappling with skyrocketing health care costs. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation report shows that Americans will continue paying higher health insurance premiums while having fewer plans to choose from. The Supreme Court’s decision won’t help folks gain greater access to coverage or lower health care costs in this difficult economy. I still support repealing and replacing this bill with solutions that will empower patients, and put them at the center of their health care.
“Unfortunately, concerns over the bill’s impact on our economy continue. This court case was brought forth by the National Federation of Independent Business — America’s leading voice for small businesses — due to law’s negative impacts on those job creators. I won’t take my eyes off of Southwest Washington’s need for economic recovery and jobs.
“I have always believed that people deserve access to quality health care that meets their needs, from a doctor they choose, at a price they can afford. Those are things I’ve fought for since my days as a state legislator. Today’s events only solidify my commitment to patient-centered solutions that make health care affordable.”
Tax on the Middle Class
Kirby Wilbur, chairman state Republican Party—“This morning’s verdict by the Supreme Court finally defines this legislation as exactly what it is: a tax on the middle class. When President Obama was trying to sell his ill-conceived legislation he ‘rejected the notion’ that it was a tax; today the Supreme Court told him that he could not deceive the American public with his rhetoric any longer.
“I think it is important to highlight the distinction made by Justice Roberts in his final determination. He declared that this mandate was not constitutional under the interstate commerce clause or the necessary and proper clause. It was only deemed constitutional as a tax – the very word the President has rejected repeatedly in his pitch to the public. But spinning the story won’t change the facts, Mr. President. Today’s decision sets the new precedent of a federal tax to compel behavior. It is an ominous one, and serves as a very slippery slope for our country.
“This law is unusual in that opposition to it has grown since its passage. The majority of Americans still oppose major portions of this act and I doubt the Court’s decision will alter that. Though the mandate was deemed a tax by the Supreme Court, and therefore constitutional, it is not now, nor has it ever been, good policy for our country. Today’s decision will mobilize our base around a greater than ever urgency to elect Mitt Romney in November, and a majority of Republicans to the House and Senate, as we work towards untangling this mess and regaining our liberties.”
The Right Thing to Do
Senate Ways and Means Chairman Ed Murray, D-Seattle – “This ruling is a victory for Washingtonians – for the more than 1 million who have no health insurance today, for the parents who are now able to keep their children on their plans, for the small businesses that will be able to offer affordable coverage to employees, and for those who are sick and will no longer be denied coverage.
“Given those benefits for Washingtonians, the Legislature has consistently supported the Affordable Care Act, laying groundwork like a state insurance exchange, which will be necessary to offer coverage to everyone when the law goes into full effect. Helping people get care and stay healthy is a Washington value, and we have worked hard throughout the economic crisis to protect public services like the Basic Health Plan. Beyond the rhetoric of the long legal battle over reform, caring for our neighbors is the right thing to do, and we will continue that work in Washington state.”
Important First Step
U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.–”This is an important step in upholding a law that will help drive down the cost of health care and increase access to those who don’t have coverage. Many important provisions will help reward the state of Washington for its cost-effective, outcome-based delivery system.
“It means people can’t be denied insurance for preexisting conditions. It means small businesses will get tax breaks for providing health insurance. It means cheaper prescription drugs for seniors and it means young adults will be able to stay on their parents health insurance. It ends unfair penalties on Washington providers who deliver quality health care at a lower cost than other regions around America and it ensures Washington state’s Basic Health Plan will continue to serve as a national model for expanding access to care using bulk purchasing power. And it helps to build Washington state’s future health care workforce.
“Following today’s decision, I will continue to strongly advocate for the principles of increasing access to quality health care, controlling health care costs, and improving the efficiency of our medical delivery system. As a member of the Small Business Committee, I will continue to work with Washington state small businesses to reduce the costs of health care and support small business job growth.
“Moving forward, Congress needs to work in a bipartisan manner to provide greater economic certainty, support job creation and bolster the middle class.”