The U.S. Supreme Court this morning revealed that a key part of President Obama's Affordable health care reform has been upheld.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act is the president's biggest achievement, signed in 2010, designed to ensure health care coverage and cut costs in the health care system.
The Supreme Court reviewed the constitutionality of the individual mandate, requiring nearly every American to buy health insurance. The legal question centers on whether such a regulation is allowed under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which allows the federal government to regulate interstate activity.
The key Obama achievement was upheld in a 5-4 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. siding to uphold the law and writing the decision. (The decision is attached to this story.)
The president is expected to speak about the decision in a few hours from the White House.
Pundits and politicians alike are already heralding the decision as a major political boon to Obama, whose supporters were concerned that an overturn of the law, or just the individual mandate, would harm the president's re-election bid this year.
New York Congresswoman Nita Lowey, D-Harrison, said she supports the decision in a statement released today.
"I am pleased the Supreme Court today upheld the Affordable Care Act, protecting access to health insurance and quality of coverage for millions of Americans," she said. "This decision protects the coverage of 17 million children with pre-existing conditions, 6.6 million young adults on their parents’ plans, and 86 million seniors and families receiving free preventive care. I will continue to work with my colleagues to improve the law and make health care more affordable for New Yorkers.”
Her Republican November opponent, Joe Carvin, said the decision is "deeply disappointing."
"...it serves to highlight two critical facts: Obamacare represents the largest tax increase in U.S. history, and it must be struck down legislatively by the Congress rather than through the courts," he said in a statement. "Obamacare is unaffordable to a nation on a perilous path toward effective bankruptcy. As a member of Congress, I will work to overturn this fundamentally flawed law."
Obama's health care law, which also requires health insurers to provide cover to children of policy holders up to 26 years old and bans insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, was challenged by several states which argued that some of its conditions, particularly the individual mandate, was unconstitutional.
Republicans also had vehemently opposed the health care law and their presumptive presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, has vowed to seek its repeal if he's elected.
One of the key opinions of the decision today is the court found that the law is essentially a tax increase, which is allowed by the Constitution.
In Albany, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman had filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the Affordable Care Act.
“The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act is an historic victory for the tens of millions more Americans who will be covered by health insurance," Schneiderman said. "The law's effects will be significant in our state, where over two million people are uninsured. Over a million uninsured New Yorkers will soon have access to affordable coverage. This law will continue to provide a spectrum of key consumer protections including keeping young adults on their parents' plans, ending pre-existing condition restrictions, and increasing consumer information about health care choices. My office stands ready to enforce the Affordable Care Act to ensure that all New Yorkers will benefit from the law's protections.”
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, applauded today's Supreme Court decision.
“I am pleased the Supreme Court reaffirmed the hard fought progress that was made to ensure that no one can be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition, being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition, young adults will be covered, prescription drug costs for seniors will be reduced, preventive care including life-saving mammograms will be accessible and that insurance companies can’t cancel their coverage when you get sick," Gillibrand said. "It is time to get beyond scoring political points and get back to finding common core values and passing legislation that will help grow our economy and get more people back to work.”
AARP is pleased that the Supreme Court found the critically important provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to be constitutional. This landmark legislation is already improving the health and financial security of our members and all Americans.
AARP today said it supported this law because it helps many Medicare recipients avoid financially burdensome increases in prescription drug costs by closing the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap, or "doughnut hole."
The ACA, the organization says, also expands the number of people eligible for free preventive and wellness benefits, and cracks down on Medicare fraud, waste and abuse. They also applaud its elements which, for those not yet eligible for Medicare, will be instrumental in eliminating discriminatory health insurance practices such as exclusions based on pre-existing conditions, and in limiting the use of age rating to charge exorbitant premiums for older Americans.
“We are pleased that the Supreme Court found the majority of the Affordable Care Act constitutional," said AARP CEO A. Barry Rand. “We look forward to the continued implementation of this critically important legislation so that millions of Americans can continue to receive the benefits it provides. AARP will continue to be a source of information and support as Americans navigate the benefits of the law.”
U.S. Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY), a supporter of the act, expressed his surprise at the decision in a release issued Thursday.
"I am both pleased and a little surprised to see that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Affordable Care Act, flying in the face of conservative pressure, similar to their decision in the Arizona immigration case earlier this week," Engel said. "After their partisan decisions in Bush v. Gore and Citizens United, I was not alone in my skepticism that they could avoid politics on these issues. I am very pleased to see they upheld this law, as I was always certain of its constitutionality."
Engel said the Affordable Care Act has been under attack since 2009 and hoped this would bring an end to the issue.
"The Affordable Care Act is now the law of the land," Engel said. "I am hopeful my Republican colleagues will now work with me to improve the law, instead of trying to tear it down. The Court did the American people a huge favor today by standing with them and focusing on the law instead of the politics. I am hopeful this will continue in the future and other upcoming landmark court decisions will not be predicated on politics.”