The U.S. Supreme Court has voted 5-4 to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act federal health care reform law. This means the individual mandate survives. There are questions about how this decision will affect state Medicaid programs, including Georgia Medicaid. Today we will monitor and present the extensive reactions to this historic decision. We invite you to check back here as Georgia leaders react. Comments compiled by Mike Klein.
3:35 pm — Statement from Robert Schapiro, Dean, Emory University School of Law:
“Chief Justice (John Roberts) has crafted an opinion that manages to uphold the law without making any dramatic comments on the state of existing law. The chief justice accepted the key arguments of those opposing the law. In specific, they argued that Congress had never before required individuals to purchase something that they did not want.
“The Chief Justice accepted the argument that requiring individuals to purchase health insurance would exceed the commerce clause authority of the federal government. That holding seems to be a new but fairly narrow restriction on federal power.
“I do not think this decision changes the relationship of the individual to the state or federal government. It was argued that to allow the federal government to require an individual to purchase something would be an expansion of federal government power over an individual. However, the court rejected that authority. At the same time, because the Court viewed what Congress was seeking to do as an unusual and specialized kind of power limiting Congress’ power to mandate this kind of commercial activity seems unlikely to have any broader implication.”
12:20pm — Statements from U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss:
Isakson Statement: “I am sorely disappointed that the Court has upheld the individual mandate as a legal tax on the American people. Today’s ruling does not change the fact that there have been enormous problems trying to implement this terribly flawed law and that it must be repealed and replaced with a step-by-step approach that makes health care more accessible, affordable and competitive.”
Chambliss Statement: “I am disappointed in today’s decision. While I believe the individual mandate to directly contradict the Constitution, we must respect the decision of the court. However, this is not the final chapter in the healthcare-reform debate. I will continue to push to repeal the law, and urge Congress and the next administration to work to replace Obamacare.
“This law adds new taxes on an already overtaxed population, and adds regulation to an already over-regulated industry. We must address the skyrocketing costs of health care and its impact on individuals, families and small businesses while working together on transparent and measured reforms to ensure that everyone has access to quality and affordable care.”
Isakson and Chambliss voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009, and they have both voted to repeal the law.
12:20 pm — Statements from Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens:
Today, in the wake of the Supreme Court of the United States decision to uphold Obamacare, Gov. Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens highlighted the need for Congress to repeal the government takeover of health care, which puts crippling mandates on the taxpayers of Georgia. Georgia was one of 28 states to challenge the constitutionality of the law.
“My battle with Obamacare didn’t start when I was elected as governor of Georgia,” said DeaI. “I wear with pride my bruises and scars from the fight against its passage in the U.S. House. Today, the highest court in the country let the American people down.
“While we recognize this is a huge setback for fiscal sanity and personal liberty, we are not giving up. Georgians and the American people deserve high-quality, sustainable health care. Congress must now work steadfastly on repealing this law and replacing it with reforms that help taxpayers instead of hurt them.”
Olens said the ruling carries with it the strong implication that, contrary to the text of the Constitution and the vision of this country’s Founding Fathers, there is no longer any meaningful limit to the power of the federal government.
As Georgia’s chief legal officer, Attorney General Sam Olens has led the state’s legal fight against the president’s health care reform law. Immediately following his swearing-in as attorney general in January 2011, Olens joined the multistate lawsuit against the law. He has steadfastly defended Georgia’s interests throughout every phase of the litigation.
“I disagree with this decision. Congress explicitly said this was not a tax,” said Olens. “I call on Congress to act swiftly, repeal the law and replace it with real reform that respects the Constitution as written.”
Prior to today’s Supreme Court decision, two lower courts ruled for Georgia and its fellow plaintiffs, finding the individual mandate unconstitutional.
“Governor Deal and I are grateful to the outside lawyers who have served Georgia in this lawsuit as special assistant attorneys general at no cost to the state: Frank C. Jones, Jason Alloy, Josh Belinfante, Pitts Carr, Ben Mathis, David Oedel, John Parker, Mike Russ, and former team member and Supreme Court Justice-designate Keith Blackwell,” Olens said. “Their pro bono efforts have ensured that Georgia could participate fully in this vital lawsuit at minimal cost to taxpayers.”
12:05 pm — Statement from Dr. Hal Scherz, Founder and President, Docs4PatientCare:
“The Supreme Court disappointed the majority of Americans who have voiced their opposition to ObamaCare, by upholding significant portions of this truly abysmal law. Their decision has left Americans now wondering what it is that the Federal Government can’t compel them to do. This is perhaps the worst decision in the history of the Supreme Court and emphasizes the importance of making the correct decision for chief executive, who controls who sits on this bench.
“Although a tremendous disappointment, it does not mark the end of the struggle to get rid of ObamaCare. There is still one way to do so before it is too late, and that is at the ballot box in November. We must elect people to Congress and to the White House who we trust will follow through on their promise to repeal ObamaCare. Then we must hope that they have the political will and courage to keep those promises.”
“Even though the Supreme Court action today is a setback for those of us who’ve fought for decades to revive limited constitutional government, it’s hardly the end of the road. The ideas this litigation put in play – in the court decisions below, in the oral arguments before the Supreme Court, and in the huge debate that has taken place across the, country – will not go away. They’re the ideas of limited constitutional government that are as compelling today as they were when the Founders first articulated them over two centuries ago, even if this Court has found itself unable to give them force in this case.
“But it’s not simply that the ideas are now “out of the bottle” as they haven’t been for a very long time. More deeply, it’s because they address the fundamental problem the nation faces today – out-of-control government, at all levels, giving us a looming economic disaster – that they’ll increasingly be in play. After today’s decision, it will fall to the people themselves, who’ve opposed this legislation from the beginning, to elect a Congress that stands for restoring limited constitutional government, such that a future Court will be better able to do what this Court should have done.”
11:30 am — Statement from Ross Mason, Board Chairman, Georgia Department of Community Health:
“It’s not addressing the core issues. It does not do anything to talk about tort reform, regulatory issues, the cost of drugs, patient access in a real way or making the patient the consumer. There’s no insurance reform. It’s too much regulation for doctors who are still focused on defensive medicine. It does not address anything about unfunded pension or health care liabilities or solutions like cross-state insurance pools for small businesses. It’s a lot of stick, no carrot and it’s not dealing with the fundamental drivers of the health care market place that would increase access, reduce cost or bring in innovative solutions. None of that is addressed. All we are doing is dumping more population on a broken system and letting costs spiral out of control.
“Starting in 2014 we will have another 620,000 in Medicaid and it will be up 690,000 by 2023. It’s going to cost $41 billion to implement the changes at the federal level and we think $4.83 billion at the state level for Georgia. Obviously the Supreme Court ratified the mandate as a tax. It’s not clear what the opt-out provisions are yet for Medicaid for the states. The implication in the bill was if you don’t implement these changes it’s going to affect the existing payments. I think the Supreme Court went after that. It’s not clear what the ramifications of that will be. We’re going to hear a legal ruling on what the implication will be on our existing Medicaid populations if we do not expand the rolls according to ObamaCare.”
11:00 am — Statement from U.S. Rep. Tom Price, chairman of the Republican Policy Committee:
“Since the beginning of this debate, Republicans have developed and promoted positive solutions that empower individuals and families to choose the health care coverage they want. We have done so because it is obvious the status quo in America’s health care system is broken and in need of reform. Our solutions would preserve the sacred doctor-patient relationship and keep unelected bureaucrats from denying access to care. Most importantly, these measures would expand access, address costs, assure quality and encourage innovation all without putting the government in control or imposing mandates.”
10:55am — Statement from Georgia Public Policy Foundation:
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is constitutional clears the last remaining hope for restraint of the federal government, Kelly McCutchen, president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, said today. “The Founding Fathers would be mortified to see the body blow to their hard-won concept of America’s limited government,” McCutchen said. “Congress now has the power to do whatever it wants.
“This flawed decision highlights the urgent need for state action to protect taxpayers and health care consumers from the harmful effects of this law. The solution to this nation’s health care problems certainly are not in Washington, D.C., and this ruling reinforces our commitment to work harder than ever to restore the proper balance of individual rights and government power in Georgia and in Washington.”
McCutchen vowed the Foundation will continue to work with like-minded organizations and leaders across the country and the state to push for “reforms that put patients in charge of their own care, give low-income recipients true access to care, and protect taxpayers from the skyrocketing costs of the federal law.
“As a free-market think tank, we exist to defend the liberty of Georgians from state and federal government encroachments,” he added. “We will redouble that effort as we advance the goals of better health care for all Georgians.”
10:45am — Statement from Chris Clark, President and CEO, Georgia Chamber of Commerce:
“We are greatly disappointed in the decision rendered today by the Supreme Court and believe that the path on which our nation is being forced to move forward will be detrimental to both employers and employees throughout the nation as a result of increased costs and new regulations. Businesses will be forced to make difficult decisions that will likely result in employees losing their employer-provided coverage. Our organization will look forward to working with the Governor and other leaders at the state and federal level to implement the law in a way that takes into account the important role businesses play by providing this important benefit and the overall impact on our economy.”