U.S. Supreme Court upholds health care reform law

McKenna should be ashamed, says WSLC’s Johnson


President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010.

(June 28, 2012) — The U.S. Supreme Court today upheld as constitutional President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, including the individual mandate requiring individuals to buy health insurance or face a fine starting in 2014. That provision, which the court considers a tax that the government has the authority to impose, survived a 5-4 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining left-leaning members of the court in the majority.

Twenty-six mostly-Republican State Attorneys General, including Washington’s Rob McKenna, had sued the federal government to have the entire ACA thrown out as unconstitutional. Congressional Republicans leaders have vowed that, should the court leave any portion of the ACA intact, they will fight to repeal it.

Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, issued the following statement this morning:

“Today, the U.S. Supreme Court made the right decision by affirming the Affordable Care Act. Rob McKenna and the other Attorneys General should be ashamed of themselves  for trying to overturn a law that will help cover one million Washingtonians and 30 million Americans with health care coverage. The Affordable Health Act closes the door for good on some of the worst insurance industry practices, including denying access to coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and placing arbitrary limits on health care treatment expenditures.

“I hope that this decision sends a strong message to Rob McKenna to stop playing partisan politics with issues that are important to millions of individuals and businesses.

“Of course, the court decision is just the beginning. We must move forward with many federal and state level changes to fully implement the Affordable Care Act. The Washington State Labor Council will continue to work with our affiliated unions and community partners to ensure that this is accomplished in a way that ensures affordable, accessible health care for all.”

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler expressed great relief with today’s Supreme Court decision, saying that Washington state is now well ahead of most states in reforming its health care system.

Many reforms are currently in place, but key benefits and programs take effect in 2014, including Washington’s new Health Exchange, federal subsidies to help 477,000 people afford health insurance, an expansion of Medicaid for 328,000 poor childless adults and the ban on insurance companies from denying people coverage if they’re sick.

“I’m very pleased the Supreme Court chose to uphold the Affordable Care Act,” said Kreidler. “We’ve been busy for two years now implementing the reforms and have made great progress, but there’s a lot left to do before 2014. With the court decision out of the way, we can continue our focus on where it should be – bringing relief to families struggling to find quality, affordable health insurance.”

The millions of Washington state consumers benefiting from the Affordable Care Act’s early reforms include:

  • More than 2.4 million people who no longer face lifetime caps on their health benefits.
  • More than 52,000 young adults up to age 26 who have stayed on their parents’ health plans.
  • More than 1.2 million people who now have coverage for preventive care with no co-pays or deductibles.
  • More than 60,000 people in Medicare who have saved hundreds on their prescription drugs.

UPDATE — The following statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was released today:

“We are pleased and relieved that the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.  Today’s decision means that we can continue moving full speed ahead to implement and build upon the Affordable Care Act.  We have no illusion that the destination has been reached, and we are more committed than ever to the hard work necessary to achieve our dream of quality health care for all.

“With this decision, more than 105 million Americans will continue to benefit from the elimination of lifetime limits and the coverage of preventive services without cost-sharing, and more than 6 million young adults will remain covered by their parents’ health care plans.  Seniors will continue to save money on prescription drugs as the Part D donut hole closes over the next eight years; already over 5 million seniors have saved $3.7 billion on prescriptions in 2010 and 2011.  And insurance companies will not be able to deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions, charge women more or drop coverage for those who get sick.

“To assure that 33 million Americans will be able to obtain health care coverage through the exchanges and Medicaid beginning in 2014, all states, including those that waited for this decision to be issued, must now do their job and act without delay.  We are troubled by the Court’s decision limiting the ability of the federal government to encourage states to extend Medicaid coverage to certain lower income individuals, and it would be unconscionable for states to refuse to extend that coverage, using today’s decision as a pretext.

“The Affordable Care Act is our first step in expanding health care coverage, improving care and beginning to get control of health care costs.  We will need to build on the achievements of the Act, Medicare and Medicaid in order to fix our broken health care system and advance along the path to a more equitable and cost-effective system.

“We believe the way forward is to build on the Affordable Care Act reforms that strengthen Medicare’s historic leadership in containing health care costs, without cutting benefits.  A simple indisputably constitutional solution is to allow Americans of all ages to buy into an improved Medicare program.  We believe every baby in America—whether rich or poor—deserves the same standard of quality care, and we will keep moving forward until we make this a reality.

“We cannot afford to go backward, but that is what Mitt Romney and the Republican leadership in Congress would do.  Their prescriptions would not expand coverage or control health care costs.  Instead, they would shift costs to working families, retirees and the states.

“The election this November provides a clear choice between the President, who has stood for fairness and for working men and women, and Romney, who urges repealing health insurance protection for working families. We stand with the President.”

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