Local reaction to Supreme Court decision on health care

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday (Thursday, June 28) upheld the Obama Administration’s landmark legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act, on a 5-4 vote.

State Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), chairperson of the Health and Human Services Finance Committee, expressed disappointment over the decision. File photo
State Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), chairperson of the Health and Human Services Finance Committee, expressed disappointment over the decision. File photo

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, rendering the majority decision on the controversial individual health insurance mandate, concluded the provision was indeed permissible as part of the federal government’s taxing authority.

“The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax,” Roberts wrote.

“Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.”

Americans who refuse to obtain health insurance face penalties beginning in 2014.

One of the most outspoken critics of the federal law, Republican 6th District Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, blasted the court’s decision on CNN.

“It really is a turning point in American history,” Bachmann said. “This is an activist court you saw today.”

Bachmann called the judicial logic that the individual mandate was permissible “bizarre.”

She said it was “a denial of liberty” and spoke of the ballot box as the only remedy left to opponents of so-called Obamacare.

State Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka and chairperson of the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Finance Committee, expressed disappointment over the ruling.

“It’s a great ruling if money would fall from the sky,” said Abeler.

Abeler views the health care law as emblematic of out-of-control federal spending, a gushing of borrowed money for which he blames Republicans and Democrats alike.

Additionally, Abeler said the Affordable Care Act was tightening federal control on the states.

Dayton Administration health care officials, including Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, applauded the court ruling.

“The ruling signifies real progress and important protection for citizens across Minnesota,” read her statement.

“2014 will be a really big year,” said Jesson.

Major elements of the act, such as health insurance exchanges, should be in place, she said.

According to Jesson,  most Americans, assisted by elements in the legislation, would willingly take steps to insure they’re covered.

“Minnesota has always been a national leader in health care and the administration will continue efforts to increase quality and improve access to insurance and affordable care will continue,” Jesson’s statement read.

Former Republican U.S. Sen. David Durenberger, founder and current chairperson of the National Institute of Health Policy at the University of St. Thomas, said that while the Affordable Care Act isn’t a flawless piece of legislation, it’s pretty good.

It reflects evolving wisdom and consensus over health care gained over past decades, he said.

“All these things are coming together now,” Durenberger said. “The law is the reward.”

“It’s got everything we’ve been looking for.”

Well defined national health care policy goals are found in the bill, according to Durenberger.

Durenberger, speaking prior to the Supreme Court ruling, defended the personal mandate.

“You’ve got to have a system in which everybody is in,” Durenberger said.

As for Republican critics, they have some laudable, long-terms goals for health care, Durenberger said.

“(But) they don’t know how to get from here to there,” he said.

Durenberger, seen as a health care expert, views Democrats from Obama to Minnesota U.S. senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken in the past as “totally” failing to defend the Affordable Care Act.

Indeed, he’s been astounded by the silence of the Democrats, he said.

Affordable Care Act provisions already in effect include:

• Children with pre-existing medical conditions cannot be discriminated against by new health care plans or grandfathered group health plans.

• Prohibits insurance companies from dropping people from health care coverage if they get sick.

• Requires new health plans and certain grandfathered plans to allow young people up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance policy, if desired.