By Andrew Thomason
SPRINGFIELD — The U.S. Supreme Court's decision today upholding the federal health care law drw mixed reactions from interest groups in Illinois.
The most controversial part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the requirement for everyone to have health insurance, was upheld by the court. The majority opinion in the 5-4 decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts said that while the government couldn't use the commerce clause to require people to pay for health insurance, that it was within the government's powers to impose a tax.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision helps to strengthen our nation’s tattered social fabric and provides hope that constitutional law and democracy matters,” Jim Duffett, executive director of the Campaign for Better Health Care, which advocates for more accessible, cheaper health care, said. “People will start to see health-care costs stabilized.”
Mary Jane Wurth, president of the Illinois Hospital Association, applauded the ruling. "Illinois hospitals have long supported the expansion of coverage for the uninsured and reforms to eliminate exclusions for pre-existing conditions and coverage caps to improve the health and well-being of Illinoisans," Wurth said in a statement.
John Tillman, executive director of the Illinois Policy Institute, a right-leaning think tank, disagreed, saying the Affordable Care Act will strain the health-care system as the federal government struggles to come up with the money to pay for it. Tillman said the law as is will force “children with throat cancer or other serious conditions to compete with even more people for fewer and fewer doctors.”
The court narrowed the part of the law that would greatly expand Medicaid, the state-federal health care program. The Obama administration had threatened to take away Medicaid funding if states didn’t expand their Medicaid rolls by opening the program to more people.
The court stated that essentially states can opt to not expand Medicaid without the risk of losing federal dollars they are already getting, only new dollars promised under the expansion.
In Washington, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston hailed the court's decision.
Schakowsky said, "The law ends insurance industry abuses in the health system, improves Medicare and Medicaid for seniors and the disabled, and covers millions of uninsured Americans."
She called on Republicans "to finally put to rest the relentless, partisan attacks against a landmark law that is already working to provide affordable, high-quality care."
Many on the right opposed to the law are still pushing for a full repeal.
“The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold ObamaCare – and specifically the individual mandate – was a severe blow to restoring Constitutional limits on federal power,” Tillman said. “Congress must repeal all of ObamaCare and replace it with reforms that put patients first.”
Even if the law survives additional attacks, Thursday’s ruling was only the start.
“It is impossible to enact the act as written,” Robert Slayton, president of the Illinois State Association of Health Underwriters, which lobbies on behalf of health insurers, said. Congress “will spend the next 10 years modifying the act to make it work the way it needs to work.”
By Andrew Thomason