- Last Updated on 01:35 PM 06/28/12
- BY Paula I. Bryant
The U. S. Supreme Court on Thursday morning upheld the heart of President Barack Obama’s health care law — the individual mandate that seeks to cover 30 million uninsured.
Here in Virginia, nearly 1.1 million state residents or 14 percent are uninsured.
In a 5-4 vote, the individual insurance requirement remained intact handing the President a campaign-season victory.
In their Thursday morning ruling, the court ruled Congress does have the power to require every American to buy health insurance or else pay a penalty.
The historic health care overhaul will go into effect over the next few years.
Beginning in 2014, most people will be required to get coverage through a mix of private insurance and Medicaid.
Rejecting arguments that Congress went too far in requiring most Americans to have health insurance or face paying a penalty, Chief Justice John Roberts was joined by the court’s four liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer.
Dissenting justices were Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.
Gov. Bob McDonnell commented on the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) saying, “Today’s Supreme Court ruling is extremely disappointing for Virginia and for America. The PPACA will create a costly and cumbersome system that will impair our country’s ability to recover from these challenging economic times, infringes on our citizen’s liberties, will harm small businesses and will impose dramatic unfunded mandates on Virginia and all states. Simply put, this is a blow to freedom. America needs market-based solutions that give patients more choice, not less.
“Virginia will evaluate the steps necessary to comply with the law. While we have awaited this decision, planners have been working to identify necessary resources and issues to be addressed to ensure Virginia implements this flawed law in the most effective and least costly and burdensome way possible. In coming months, Virginia’s health care leaders will work to develop the best possible system to meet the health care needs of our citizens.
“It remains my hope that we will elect a new president and senate so that the existing law will be repealed and states will be given the freedom they need to implement health care solutions that work best for their citizens. We will evaluate the opinion in detail in the days ahead and determine what policies are proper for the people of Virginia.”
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said, "This is a dark day for the American people, the Constitution, and the rule of law. This is a dark day for American liberty.
"This decision goes against the very principle that America has a federal government of limited powers; a principle that the Founding Fathers clearly wrote into the Constitution, the supreme law of the land. The Constitution was meant to restrict the power of government precisely for the purpose of protecting your liberty and mine from the overreaching hand of the federal government.
"This unprecedented decision says that Congress has the authority to force citizens to buy private goods or face fines — a power it has never had in American history, and a power King George III and Parliament didn't have over us when we were mere subjects of Great Britain. Since the federal government itself could never articulate to the court a constitutional limit to this power, Congress has gained an unlimited power to force citizens to buy anything.
"I am disappointed with the court's ruling and with the unprecedented attack on American liberty the president and the previous Congress have created with this law.”
As part of the court’s ruling, the justices said the expansion of Medicaid could proceed as long as the federal government does not threaten to withhold the state’s Medicaid allotment if they don’t participate in the law’s extension.
The Affordable Care Act expands the scope of the Medi¬caid program and increases the number of individuals the states must cover.
For example, the Act requires state programs to provide Medicaid coverage to adults with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
Currently many states now cover adults with children only if their income is considerably lower, and do not cover childless adults at all.
The Act increases federal funding to cover the states’ costs in expanding Medicaid coverage, although states will bear a portion of the costs on their own.
If a state does not comply with the Act’s new coverage require¬ments, it may lose not only the federal funding for those requirements, but all of its federal Medicaid funds, the justices ruled.
Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the law and found Congress was within its authority to require most people to have health insurance or pay a penalty, the legal argument is settled, but not the political battle.
Republicans are expected to continue to try to block the law and hope to elect Mitt Romney as president. Romney has promised to repeal the law.
Obama is expected to use the hard-fought health overhaul victory in his campaign that promises to get most people covered with insurance, but he has yet to unveil any firm plans for dealing with how these costs are going to be paid.