ORANGE — Thursday was a landmark day if you are President Barack Obama and a supporter of his health care reform law.
The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld virtually all of Obama’s historic health care overhaul, including the hotly debated core requirement that nearly every American have health insurance.
The 5-4 decision meant the huge overhaul, still taking effect, could proceed and pick up momentum over the next several years, affecting the way that countless Americans receive and pay for their personal medical care.
At the White House, Obama declared, "Whatever the politics, today's decision was a victory for people all over this country." Blocks away, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney renewed his criticism of the overhaul, calling it "bad law" and promising to work to repeal it if elected in November.
Demonstrators for and against the law crowded the grounds outside the Supreme Court Building on Capitol Hill as Chief Justice John Roberts, sitting at the center of the nine black-robed justices inside, announced the decision to a packed courtroom.
Roberts has been known through the years as a conservative surprised many by voting to uphold the law.
The news of the Court’s decision was meant with both cheers and jeers as many around the nation started to question what the ruling would mean for their families.
Keith Strothers of Orange said digging through the information over the last few weeks has “caused him several headaches.”
“The words are right there yet it is difficult in a lot of ways to understand how this impact my family and those around me,” Strothers said. “I am yet to really form a final opinion on it. I don’t like when the government forces citizens into something yet I also understand as a parent and husband how important health insurance is in life.”
Rebekah Green echoed Strothers’ statments on the issue yet went on to say she is happy to see Obama gain this victory.
“It is hard to understand,” Green said. “I know several people though this will help in the long run so I back our President. They know a lot more than I do and I figure the government would get the money one way or the other.”
There was at least one local lawmaker who strongly opposed the law from the start and that was Congressman Kevin Brady.
“Today, individual freedom took a body blow in the highest court in the land,” Brady said. “Despite the fact that ObamaCare is bad for the economy, drives up health care costs and makes the deficit worse, the Supreme Court told every American that there are no limits on Washington’s power to force Americans to do something simply by taxing them.”
Brady, who spearheaded charts depicting how ObamaCare would put 159 new government agencies and programs between patients and their doctors, said Americans who don’t want government to order them to private product merely because they exist will need to make their voices heard in November.
“I look forward to voting for full repeal in the House on July 11 and I will keep fighting for full repeal, because Americans want limited government and free market driven reforms including an end to junk medical lawsuits,” added Brady. “What they didn’t want was this Washington knows best approach. Today, however, was not the final word on this terrible legislation and the American people will have their say at the ballot box in November.”
More than eight in 10 Americans already have health insurance. But for most of the 50 million who are uninsured, the ruling offers the promise of guaranteed coverage at affordable prices. Lower-income and many middle-class families will be eligible for subsidies to help pay premiums starting in 2014.
There's also an added safety net for all Americans, insured and uninsured. Starting in 2014, insurance companies will not be able to deny coverage for medical treatment, nor can they charge more to people with health problems. Those protections, now standard in most big employer plans, will be available to all, including people who get laid off, or leave a corporate job to launch their own small business.
Seniors also benefit from the law through better Medicare coverage for those with high prescription costs, and no copayments for preventive care. But hospitals, nursing homes, and many other service providers may struggle once the Medicare cuts used to finance the law really start to bite.
Illegal immigrants are not entitled to the new insurance coverage under the law, and will remain one of the biggest groups uninsured.
The health care overhaul focus will now quickly shift from Washington to state capitals. Only 14 states, plus Washington, D.C., have adopted plans to set up the new health insurance markets called for under the law. Called exchanges, the new markets are supposed to be up and running on Jan. 1, 2014. People buying coverage individually, as well as small businesses, will be able to shop for private coverage from a range of competing insurers.
Most Republican-led states, including large ones such as Texas and Florida, have been counting on the law to be overturned and have failed to do the considerable spade work needed to set up exchanges. There's a real question about whether they can meet the deadline, and if they don't, Washington will step in and run their exchanges for them.
The Medicaid expansion would cover an estimated 17 million people who earn too much to qualify for assistance but not enough to afford insurance. The federal and state governments share the cost, and Washington regularly imposes conditions on the states in exchange for money.