Leaders Respond To SCOTUS Health Care Ruling
Dakota Digest - 06/29/2012
By Kealey Bultena
Thursday’s news from the Supreme Court of the United States ends the high court’s summer term, but it prompts a whole new debate about health care in the U.S. Since President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010, people have argued whether it was legal. In this Dakota Digest, hear how South Dakota’s leaders are handling the ruling that the health care law stands.
The U-S Supreme Court ruled nearly every aspect of the Affordable Care Act is legal. That includes the much-debated measure that requires people enroll in health coverage or pay a fine.
In the shadow of a federal courthouse, a man who helped take the health care case to the nation’s highest court stands stoic.
"What the Supreme Court said is that, the individual mandate could not be upheld by either the Commerce Clause or by the Necessary and Proper Clause, but that it could be upheld as a proper tax," Attorney General Marty Jackley says. "Certainly that was disappointing, especially after lawmakers made it very clear from the president to congressional leaders that this was not a tax."
Jackley says South Dakota is one of 26 states that challenged the Affordable Health Care Act’s constitutionality. He doesn’t say the 5-4 decision upholding the law is a win or a loss but a mixed bag.
Jackley analyzes law in a red state. The majority of South Dakota’s key political leaders are Republican, and this health care law is particularly partisan. U.S. Senator John Thune says he finds the Supreme Court’s opinion troubling. If the individual mandate is legal because it’s a tax, he says, that means people in lower income brackets are staring down a tax increase.
"While the court may have declared Obama-Care constitutional it doesn’t change the fact that this is bad policy," Thune says. "The Democrats ran a nearly three thousand page bill through Congress using back room deals and political favors."
Republican Congresswoman Kristi Noem opposes the Affordable Care Act. She’s spoken against it since before she went to Capitol Hill.
"The President’s healthcare law has increased uncertainty in America and in fact many still don’t know what’s in it," Noem says. "What we do know is that the President promised his law would decrease costs, but they’ve only increased. We know that businesses have contemplated dropping coverage for their employees in favor of paying the penalty instead."
Of South Dakota’s representatives in D.C., only Senator Tim Johnson supports the Supreme Court ruling and the law that spurs such controversy.
"This is a huge win for South Dakotans and the nation. I have always believed health care reform was constitutional. Critically, the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate," Johnson says.
Johnson supported the health care reform legislation from the beginning. The Democrat says it helps people in his home state.
"From kids to seniors, health care reform has made a positive difference in the lives of tens of thousands of South Dakotans," Johnson says. "More than 9,000 young adults in South Dakota have been covered under their parent’s health insurance policies since the beginning of the year."
Justices on the Supreme Court take issue with only one segment of the Affordable Care Act. It’s a section that requires states expand Medicaid programs or face losing federal funding for the program. South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley explains the justices won’t let the federal government get by with that threat, but they don’t say how Congress can act.
"But what remains at issue on the Medicaid expansion is that approximately $100 million initially the state would have to pay, the $36 million a year thereafter," Jackley says. "And that’s really up the governor and legislature to take a position on that."
Governor Dennis Daugaard says the state picks up the health care tab for low-income children, pregnant women, seniors, and people with disabilities and children in foster care.
"We already cover all those populations. This will add another 54,000 to the Medicaid rolls, grow us by about 50 percent, and most of those will be able-bodied adults," Daugaard says.
Daugaard says the law’s moniker is misleading. He says the nation, including South Dakota, can’t afford this Affordable Health Care Act.
"Most of the deadlines that bring into full effect this law occur in 2014. We are not going to implement any part of the legislation this year," Daugaard says. "We’re going to wait in hopes that the new Congress and President will repeal part if not all of this legislation."
That’s something Daugaard’s fellow Republicans are banking on. They hang their hope on ushering in new leadership and eliminating the health care law altogether. Meanwhile Democrats celebrate the victory of the President’s flagship policy.
Members of South Dakota leadership maintain vastly different stances on the Affordable Care Act. Yet they all agree: this isn’t over.
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