Supreme Court upholds ObamaCare

The United States Supreme Court has upheld the health-care reform passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010.

In a decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court ruled that the individual mandate key to the law cannot be mandated by Congress under the Commerce Clause, as had been argued by the law’s backers, but is permitted under the Constitution’s grant of power to Congress to tax.

Reaction from Virginia political leaders and other observers: Click here for updates.

  

Statement from U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, 3:17 p.m.:

“I am pleased the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of health reform.

“I have always felt the Affordable Care Act was weighted more toward the issue of coverage and not enough toward cost containment.

“I look forward to now moving forward in a bipartisan way on how we can further bring down the costs of health care.  We must focus the health care system more on outcomes than simply on the volume of services provided.”

 

Statement from President Barack Obama, 1:01 p.m.:

Good afternoon.  Earlier today, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act — the name of the health care reform we passed two years ago.  In doing so, they’ve reaffirmed a fundamental principle that here in America — in the wealthiest nation on Earth – no illness or accident should lead to any family’s financial ruin.

I know there will be a lot of discussion today about the politics of all this, about who won and who lost.  That’s how these things tend to be viewed here in Washington.  But that discussion completely misses the point.  Whatever the politics, today’s decision was a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law and the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it.

And because this law has a direct impact on so many Americans, I want to take this opportunity to talk about exactly what it means for you.

First, if you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance — this law will only make it more secure and more affordable.  Insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime limits on the amount of care you receive.  They can no longer discriminate against children with preexisting conditions.  They can no longer drop your coverage if you get sick.  They can no longer jack up your premiums without reason.  They are required to provide free preventive care like check-ups and mammograms — a provision that’s already helped 54 million Americans with private insurance.  And by this August, nearly 13 million of you will receive a rebate from your insurance company because it spent too much on things like administrative costs and CEO bonuses, and not enough on your health care.

There’s more.  Because of the Affordable Care Act, young adults under the age of 26 are able to stay on their parent’s health care plans — a provision that’s already helped 6 million young Americans.  And because of the Affordable Care Act, seniors receive a discount on their prescription drugs – a discount that’s already saved more than 5 million seniors on Medicare about $600 each.

All of this is happening because of the Affordable Care Act. These provisions provide common-sense protections for middle class families, and they enjoy broad popular support.  And thanks to today’s decision, all of these benefits and protections will continue for Americans who already have health insurance.

Now, if you’re one of the 30 million Americans who don’t yet have health insurance, starting in 2014 this law will offer you an array of quality, affordable, private health insurance plans to choose from.  Each state will take the lead in designing their own menu of options, and if states can come up with even better ways of covering more people at the same quality and cost, this law allows them to do that, too.  And I’ve asked Congress to help speed up that process, and give states this flexibility in year one.

Once states set up these health insurance marketplaces, known as exchanges, insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate against any American with a preexisting health condition.  They won’t be able to charge you more just because you’re a woman.  They won’t be able to bill you into bankruptcy. If you’re sick, you’ll finally have the same chance to get quality, affordable health care as everyone else.  And if you can’t afford the premiums, you’ll receive a credit that helps pay for it.

Today, the Supreme Court also upheld the principle that people who can afford health insurance should take the responsibility to buy health insurance.  This is important for two reasons.

First, when uninsured people who can afford coverage get sick, and show up at the emergency room for care, the rest of us end up paying for their care in the form of higher premiums.

And second, if you ask insurance companies to cover people with preexisting conditions, but don’t require people who can afford it to buy their own insurance, some folks might wait until they’re sick to buy the care they need — which would also drive up everybody else’s premiums.

That’s why, even though I knew it wouldn’t be politically popular, and resisted the idea when I ran for this office, we ultimately included a provision in the Affordable Care Act that people who can afford to buy health insurance should take the responsibility to do so.  In fact, this idea has enjoyed support from members of both parties, including the current Republican nominee for President.

Still, I know the debate over this law has been divisive.  I respect the very real concerns that millions of Americans have shared.  And I know a lot of coverage through this health care debate has focused on what it means politically.

Well, it should be pretty clear by now that I didn’t do this because it was good politics.  I did it because I believed it was good for the country.  I did it because I believed it was good for the American people.

There’s a framed letter that hangs in my office right now.  It was sent to me during the health care debate by a woman named Natoma Canfield.  For years and years, Natoma did everything right.  She bought health insurance.  She paid her premiums on time.  But 18 years ago, Natoma was diagnosed with cancer.  And even though she’d been cancer-free for more than a decade, her insurance company kept jacking up her rates, year after year.  And despite her desire to keep her coverage – despite her fears that she would get sick again – she had to surrender her health insurance, and was forced to hang her fortunes on chance.

I carried Natoma’s story with me every day of the fight to pass this law.  It reminded me of all the Americans, all across the country, who have had to worry not only about getting sick, but about the cost of getting well.

Natoma is well today.  And because of this law, there are other Americans – other sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers – who will not have to hang their fortunes on chance.  These are the Americans for whom we passed this law.

The highest Court in the land has now spoken.  We will continue to implement this law.  And we’ll work together to improve on it where we can.  But what we won’t do – what the country can’t afford to do – is refight the political battles of two years ago, or go back to the way things were.

With today’s announcement, it’s time for us to move forward – to implement and, where necessary, improve on this law.  And now is the time to keep our focus on the most urgent challenge of our time:  putting people back to work, paying down our debt, and building an economy where people can have confidence that if they work hard, they can get ahead.

But today, I’m as confident as ever that when we look back five years from now, or 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, we’ll be better off because we had the courage to pass this law and keep moving forward.

Thank you.  God bless you, and God bless America.

 

Statement by State Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, 12:32 p.m.:

“This historic decision provides that more Virginians have access to necessary health care. The Affordable Care Act provides greater access while attacking the growing cost of medical care in the United States.

“This ruling does not end the efforts to provide quality health care at reasonable costs to Virginians.  One key component of this will be the creation of a Virginia Health care Marketplace (the ‘Exchange’). The governor should immediately call the General Assembly into Special Session to complete the work necessary to ensure that Virginia is fully prepared to implement the Affordable Care Act by the creation of this Exchange.”

 

Statement by Nicole Riley, state director of NFIB/Virginia, 11:19 a.m.:

“While we’re certainly disappointed, NFIB respects the decision to uphold the individual mandate by the Supreme Court. Clearly, this mandate has now become a tax on all Americans and a broken campaign promise from President Obama not to raise taxes.

“We are concerned about the precedent that this will set in Congress’ ability to mandate other aspects of our lives, but we will move forward from today to continue to fight, harder than ever, for real health-care reform for our membership.

“Under the health-care law, small-business owners are going to face an onslaught of taxes and mandates, resulting in job loss and closed businesses. NFIB will continue to fight for the repeal of health-care in the halls of Congress. Only with a full repeal of the law will Congress have the ability to go back to the drawing board to craft real reform that makes reducing costs a number one priority.

“The power and control of health-care decisions should be in the hands of the consumer, not the government.”

 

Statement by Rea Carey, executive director National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 11:17 a.m.:

“This ruling is a victory for millions of people — including LGBT people and our families — who don’t have access to adequate, affordable health care. Health care reform is about revamping a severely broken system to help everyone get a fair shake when it comes to keeping themselves and their families healthy and out of harm’s way. It is about making sure everyone has access to affordable health care when faced with injury and illness. It is based on the premise that no one get hung out to dry — to literally die in some cases — because they were denied affordable health care in one of the richest countries in the world.
“This ruling is fair and humane, but it also reminds us of the work that remains to be done. People of color and economically impoverished people are disproportionately affected by health inequities. We have also long known that LGBT people — particularly LGBT people of color — suffer from higher rates of health disparities, and we continue to press for reform that addresses the stark realities that many of us face every day. This advocacy includes urging the Department of Health and Human Services to use its authority to make inroads in areas such as data collection and research on LGBT health disparities. We celebrate today, but also pledge to keep pressing forward.”

 

Statement from U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine, 10:52 a.m.:

“The Affordable Care Act is an important first step in curbing discriminatory insurance company practices and increasing access to health care, but more needs to be done to bring down costs. Our government, businesses, and citizens cannot continue to spend more than any other nation on health care while getting second-rate results. As Senator, I am committed to working with all stakeholders to find additional improvements to the Affordable Care Act that give all Americans affordable access to high quality services.

“While there is more work to do, it is worth noting what has already been accomplished under the Affordable Care Act.  Nearly 63,000 more young people in Virginia have health coverage, more than 800,000 Virginia seniors have received free preventive care, millions of small businesses are now eligible for tax credits, and twenty million American women have access to cancer screenings and contraception without co-pays. And we’ve put an end to the egregious abuses by insurance companies that denied coverage to children with preexisting conditions, charged women higher premiums for the same coverage, and dropped folks when they got sick.

“My opponent regularly calls for a full repeal of this law, despite the positive results it’s already delivering for Virginia.  In the decade encompassing George Allen’s six years as a U.S. Senator, the average insurance premium for families more than doubled and over 12 million more Americans were uninsured.  Clearly, inaction was not a solution, and neither are continued calls for repeal.  Instead we must work together to strengthen this existing program and improve cost controls.”

 

Statement from Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, 10:47 a.m.:

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is extremely disappointing for Virginia and for America. The PPACA will create a costly and cumbersome system that will impair our country’s ability to recover from these challenging economic times, infringes on our citizen’s liberties, will harm small businesses, and will impose dramatic unfunded mandates on Virginia and all states. Simply put, this is a blow to freedom. America needs market-based solutions that give patients more choice, not less.

“Virginia will evaluate the steps necessary to comply with the law. While we have awaited this decision, planners have been working to identify necessary resources and issues to be addressed to ensure Virginia implements this flawed law in the most effective and least costly and burdensome way possible. In coming months, Virginia’s healthcare leaders will work to develop the best possible system to meet the healthcare needs of our citizens. It remains my hope that we will elect a new President and Senate so that the existing law will be repealed and states will be given the freedom they need to implement healthcare solutions that work best for their citizens. We will evaluate the opinion in detail in the days ahead and determine what policies are proper for the people of Virginia.”

 

Response from U.S. Senate candidate George Allen, 10:42 a.m.:

“While disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision on President Obama’s health care law, I believe it reinforces what is truly at stake during this pivotal election.  This November the American people have an opportunity to choose new leadership in Washington who will listen to their voices and repeal this costly, harmful government health care law.

“My opponent believes this health care law is a ‘great achievement,’ but I believe it’s an infringement on individual liberty and free enterprise.  As I have traveled throughout Virginia, I have heard from families, small business owners and seniors seriously concerned about the harmful impact of this health care law and how it is increasing costs, discouraging businesses from hiring, and trespassing on religious freedom.

“I want to be the deciding vote to repeal this health care law. Virginians and Americans would be better served by reforms that deliver on the promise of reducing costs, increasing access to quality care, and put people – not government – in control of their health care. We need health care reforms that provide Americans with affordable, portable, and personal market-based health care solutions including Health Savings Accounts. I also support allowing small businesses to join together across State lines in larger risk pools for lower insurance costs and more competition and greater choice.  And the States should be allowed the flexibility to manage Medicaid more smartly and efficiently.

“Virginia has proven that historic reforms can be achieved if leaders are willing to work together.  As Governor, I worked with a Democrat-controlled legislature to pass major reforms including welfare reform, abolition of parole and Standards of Learning – now Washington needs the leadership and political will to achieve real health care reform.”

 

Response from Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, 10:36 a.m.:

“This is a dark day for the American people, the Constitution, and the rule of law.  This is a dark day for American liberty.

“This decision goes against the very principle that America has a federal government of limited powers; a principle that the Founding Fathers clearly wrote into the Constitution, the supreme law of the land.  The Constitution was meant to restrict the power of government precisely for the purpose of protecting your liberty and mine from the overreaching hand of the federal government.

“This unprecedented decision says that Congress has the authority to force citizens to buy private goods or face fines – a power it has never had in American history, and a power King George III and Parliament didn’t have over us when we were mere subjects of Great Britain.  Since the federal government itself could never articulate to the court a constitutional limit to this power, Congress has gained an unlimited power to force citizens to buy anything.

“I am disappointed with the court’s ruling and with the unprecedented attack on American liberty the president and the previous Congress have created with this law.”

 

Statement from State Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, 10:32 a.m.:

“You and I both know that the individual mandate is an unwarranted encroachment upon our liberties. The Obama administration tried to justify this overreach under the Commerce Clause, in an argument which turns the Commerce Clause upside down. If the federal government can require you to purchase something against your will, what can’t it do?

“It tentatively appears that the Court instead concluded that the mandate was a tax, despite the Obama administration’s insistence that it wasn’t, and their attempt to draft the bill to avoid it being one. It was a mandate — until being a mandate become too problematic.

“It will take a while to parse the entire opinion, but I know you’re as disappointed as I am with this outcome, and concerned about where it could lead. The question remains: what can’t the federal government make us do, whether under commerce or tax authority?

“Unfortunately, today was not our day. The Supreme Court upheld Obamacare. But we won’t take this lying down. Other challenges are pending to other aspects of the law, and a vigorous defense of limits on federal power is more pertinent than ever.

“Our next Attorney General could see today’s outcome as a reason to step back, to shy away from cases involving the rights and liberties of Virginians. If that’s what you want in the next Attorney General, I’m not your candidate.

“But there’s an alternative. We can turn this day into a rallying cry; we can draw a line in the sand and vow to fight against federal overreach and encroachments on our liberties. And our next Attorney General can help lead that fight, taking the battle to the federal government when it oversteps its bounds.

“If that’s what you want in your next Attorney General, I’m your candidate.”

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