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Supreme Court Rules Obamacare Constitutional

Thursday, June 28, 2012


The Supreme Court ruled the entirety of the Affordable Care Act constitutionally sound this morning. The Obamacare ruling on was highly anticipated, as the individual mandate has been debated and rallied against across the country. The mandate has many worried about their religious rights and increased taxation.

Local health insurer, Fallon Community Health Plan issued a statement today concerning the landmark legislation: “With the Supreme Court’s decision now in hand, we’ll continue our efforts to support quality-based, affordable health care. Fallon Community Health Plan has always been committed to providing innovative, market-based solutions, and to working in partnership with health care providers to reduce the cost of care and improve the health of all those we serve.”

The Crucial Vote

The decision has many upset with Chief Justice John Roberts, who many believed would vote against Obamacare. His vote was the crucial swing that put the legislation through.

“I am so disappointed in Roberts who originally said that if you have a mandate, are they going to force you to buy a cell phone? I don’t know what happened,” said Sharon Williamson, a Worcester junior high teacher. “It’s not good for country. I think something happened behind the scenes that scared him and he didn’t have the courage of his convictions. There are a lot of powerful people with a lot of money.”

While Roberts’ vote has many surprised, one opponent of the legislation said that she was also concerned with Chief Justice Elena Kagan.

“I am absolutely disappointed in Justice Roberts,” said Pauline Morris a local supporter of Stand for Religious Freedom. “I’m gathering that Justice Kagan was there, and I believe she should have recused herself. She was part of the group who architected parts of this legislation.”

Coverage Concerns

Many believe that Obamacare is threatening worse coverage across the board, with particular concern facing the elderly and those receiving Medicaid.

“I’m concerned about the very poor. Are they going to be able to get Medicaid? States don’t have to put more into it under Obamacare. It’s a very complicated thing,” Morris said.

Attorney General Martha Coakley issued a statement in reaction to the upholding, saying, “We applaud the Court’s decision today. Massachusetts served as a model for national health care reform and we have already experienced the many benefits of increasing access to quality, affordable health care," she said. "Today’s decision is a victory for millions of Americans who will see increased access to care, coverage that cannot be denied based on pre-existing medical conditions, and the ability to keep their children covered until they turn 26."

“Massachusetts has already begun tackling the next great health care challenge – controlling costs for our families and businesses. With today’s decision, I hope our nation will continue to move forward and do the same.”

Williamson said that from what she’s heard, doctors and those studying to enter the profession will also be adversely affected as costs and patient numbers increase dramatically.

“We’re not going to have as good of care, and it’s going to cost more. Doctors I’ve talked to say if it goes through they will stop practicing,” Williamson said. “Older people are in jeopardy and people born with problems are in jeopardy.”

“The federal health care law may be constitutional, but it is wrong for jobs and the economy,” said Senator Scott Brown (R) said in a statement released today concerning the legislation. “In Massachusetts, we had already dealt responsibly with the problem of our uninsured without raising taxes or cutting care to our seniors. The bottom line for me is this law makes it harder for our economy to add jobs and for that reason I continue to oppose it.”

Williamson also worries that under this mandated healthcare, longer lines will be a crucial deterrent for many.

“I think we’re going to have to wait a lot longer to see doctors. I think people who were thinking about going into that profession may think differently. None of us really know how it’s going to turn out,” Williamson said. “All I know is that if government is going to force us to buy insurance, then what else can they make us do? Insurance prices are going to go up, and we will likely be forced into government insurance. The government can’t run the post office how will they run insurance?”

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) also issued a statement: "This is an important day for the Supreme Court and an important day for Americans who need affordable health care coverage. But I hope this will also be an important day for our politics and our discourse," he said. "For the past three years, opponents of health reform did everything they could to distort and deceive. They tried to scare the American public with outright lies about ‘death panels’ and ‘socialized medicine.’ When that didn’t work, they came up with a new strategy: claim that the individual mandate the Republican Party itself had invented was unconstitutional. Those who have sought to demonize health reform need to put an end to their scare tactics."

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick also stands in favor of the Affordable Care Act, saying, "Today’s decision is a victory for the American people, a victory for the proper role of government and a victory for our system of constitutional checks and balances. It’s a victory for the American people because it sustains a law that gives families security, holds insurers accountable and helps Americans get the care they need."

Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray sided with many in the Commonwealth, where a taxed healthcare plan has already been in place. "Today’s landmark decision by the Supreme Court affirms what we here in Massachusetts know – we can successfully provide access to health care for everyone," he said.

Religious Freedom

Many religious groups are concerned that this forced healthcare will compromise their religious freedoms and are upset that President Obama has made the issue about taxation.

“I’m very upset. He campaigned on this on the stance ‘this is not a tax it will never be a tax,’” Morris said. “I’m listening to the reports saying this tax will come from an individual’s income tax refund, and I think he put that in there as one of his ploys. Whenever it looks like he’s not getting his way, his lawyers go in and argue it as a tax.”

In Section 3 of the Supreme Court's ruling, it states the conflict of taxation and the mandate: "The most straightforward reading of the individual mandate is that it commands individuals to purchase insurance. But, for the reasons explained, the Commerce Clause does not give Congress that power. It is therefore necessary to turn to the Government’s alternative argument: that the mandate may be upheld as within Congress’s power  to “lay and collect Taxes," it reads. "In pressing its taxing power argument, the Government asks the Court to view the mandate as imposing a tax on those who do not buy that product."

Stand for Religious Freedom rallied against the HHS Mandate in Worcester recently. Both first amendment rights and taxation on religious institutions are in the forefront of Morris’ mind.

“I’m worried about first amendment religious freedom rights,” she said. “Is this going to be a tax on all the religious institutions that will not comply? And if it does, I’m a Catholic… it’s going to be hundreds of thousands of dollars for Catholic churches and other churches who believe that their religious rights are being compromised.”


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