The U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s most ambitious piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with a 5-4 vote.
The court let stand the provision of the now two-year-old legislation which mandates that all Americans buy some form of healthcare insurance.
If not they would face a penalty equal to 10 percent of any available policy on the market.
Twenty-six states and a long list of opponents of the ACA challenged this provision of the plan, hoping the high court would declare it as unconstitutional, weakening its chances of full implementation.
The high court did weaken the provision of the ACA (7-2) which would allow the federal government to withhold Medicaid funds to states which refused to implement it. ACA would expand Medicaid which is the federal health plan for the poor and disabled, and those who are under 130 percent of the national poverty level. The new law expands Medicaid coverage to more than 17 million of the poorest Americans who are among those without health care insurance.
One surprising twist was that Chief Justice John Roberts, a darling of the conservative wing of the Republican Party, joined forces with four members of the court’s liberal wing to uphold the ACA and save it from sure destruction as Republicans had hoped.
Roberts, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, stunned die-hard opponents of the ACA and President Obama. One Republican member of Congress Louis Gohmert of Texas called for Roberts’ impeachment.
It is not clear why Roberts joined Justices Steven Bryer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to uphold Obama’s Healthcare plan. But the court’s ruling in accordance with Roberts’, who wrote the majority opinion on the decision, gives President Obama a win and may help him in his bid for reelection.
“Regardless of what the Republicans say from here on out, this was a giant win for the White House, the Democrats and poor white and Black people who need affordable healthcare,” said Davis Bositus, the Chief Political Analyst of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
“Obamacare is Romneycare, clear and simple,” he continued. “So how can he (Romney) explain that away. Further, how can he repeal anything if he wins; only the Congress can do that, and we hope that Obama stays in office and the Democrats retain at least one of the houses of Congress.”
Bositus said that the President’s plan was based on one devised by Republican think tanks two decades ago. He said there is one powerful business group which supports the GOP, but still admires and supports the individual mandate.
“That’s the insurance industry. Imagine, once this plan takes shape and they will have millions of new customers whose plans will be paid for by the federal government. Think of the profits,” said Bositus.
While they were waiting for the Supreme Court to hand down its ruling, states which are run by Republican governors and legislators did little to begin implementing the ACA; Virginia was one of them. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was one of the chief opponents to the plan and filed a brief to have the mandate overturned in lower federal courts. The state did create a commission to look into implementation of the ACA. Now supporters of the plan in Virginia will be looking to see if the state will stop dragging its administrative feet and proceed with full implementation.
Their delay means that many states may be behind in their implementation of their plans.
States like Maryland, which are controlled by Democrats, have begun administrative infrastructure to ensure it will be implemented including the healthcare exchanges, When the plan comes into effect in January of 2014, consumers will be able go to these exchanges and pick from a list, an insurance plan which fits their needs and income. If a state does not implement one, the federal government will do so.
There are a number of states which are suffering from budget woes and oppose the plan that will be looking at ways to opt out of the ACA. The Supreme Court ruling, in effect, would allow them to do so, despite a state’s losing billions in Medicaid funding to insure the poor and start up its plans.
Medicaid money from the federal government is matched by the states. But if they must implement the ACA, which would mean covering more people, the states will have to shell out more money they say they do not have.
Dr. Marshall said that two years ago the President spoke to the American Nursing Association’s annual gathering she attended, where he promoted the idea of his healthcare plan. She said that she realizes now that despite the high court’s decision, the issue will be fought out in the upcoming campaign to determine who will be the next president, and determine its future.