In a highly anticipated ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court today upheld the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law that President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010 and his top priority in the first two years of his administration.
The high court, by a 5-4 vote, upheld the entire law.
The controversial law — known as "Obamacare" to critics — expands health care coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.
In Wisconsin, the reaction was divided along political lines. Republicans said the ruling would motivate them even more to push for the repeal of the law, while Democrats lauded the decision.
Walker says he won't implement law here
Gov. Scott Walker, in a statement, said Wisconsin will not take any action to implement the provisions of the federal law.
"I am hopeful that political changes in Washington, D.C., later this year ultimately end the implementation of this law at the federal level," the Republican governor said.
"If there is no political remedy from Washington and the law moves forward, it would require the majority of people in Wisconsin to pay more money for less healthcare. Additionally, it would increase the size and cost of government, decrease the quality of health care and, in our state, reduce access for those truly in need of assistance."
Walker may not have a choice, though, according to a story on WTMJ4. State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said in an interview Thursday that the governor will have to follow the established timelines of the new law.
Former Congressman Mark Neumann, who is running in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, called for the election of conservative leaders to the Senate in order to end the health care mandate.
“I think the outcome today just draw attention to the fact that we need to elect a conservative Republican to the United States Senate so that they have the votes in the Senate to repeal Obamacare next year,” Neumann told Patch. “I really think that is where it is going. This really puts Obamacare back in the center of the elections come fall and in our primary of elections. It is going to be a central issue that determines the outcome of the elections.”
Eric Hovde, a businessman running in the Republican primary election for the U.S. Senate, also called for the “trillion-dollar disaster” to be repealed and replaced with “consumer-driven, free-market solutions.”
Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who is facing Hovde and Neumann among others in the U.S. Senate race, pledged to do all he could to stop the health care law from taking place if he is elected.
"But that is not enough. I also have the ideas and experience to actually bring down health costs and increase availability, which is something nobody else in the race offers," Thompson said. "That vote will only succeed if Wisconsin elects a Republican senator.
"Furthermore, I would work with Governor Walker to make sure Obamacare is derailed in Wisconsin. We deserve better than a cost-increasing, choice-limiting political fix for a broken health care system."
Congressman Tom Petri (R-Fond du Lac) said he was disappointed with the ruling as “the law is a significant overreach on the part of Congress.”
“I support health care reform, which ensures that all Americans, including those with pre- existing conditions, have access to affordable coverage,” Petri said. “However, I believe the health care law is flawed in its approach to achieving that goal and will only make worse our skyrocketing health care costs and federal deficits.”
Ryan Confirms Repeal and Replace is Only Option
Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Janesville), chair of the House Budget Committee, said despite the Supreme Court's ruling, the law is a terrible police and represents yet another broken promise from Obama because the President has consistently maintained the individual mandate is not a tax.
"Despite today’s disappointing decision on the law’s constitutionality, there is no question that the law remains terrible policy. It is bad news for individuals, whose personal health care decisions are threatened by greater government control," he said in a written statement. "It is bad news for workers, whose paychecks and jobs are threatened by the hundreds of billions of dollars of new tax hikes and crippling uncertainty from the massive law. It is bad news for seniors, whose health security is threatened by the bureaucratic restrictions to access from the law’s changes to Medicare"
But Ryan's challenger in the November election, Democrat Rob Zerban, said the high court's decision means greater security for Americans.
"I am pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, protecting millions of Americans from living at the mercy of health insurance corporations,” he said.
Zerban said Republicans have always sacrificed the security of the US to be sure the profits of insurance companies are protected for future campaign donations. But, he added, the individual mandate was, in fact, a Republican idea.
"The individual mandate was a Republican idea because they thought it would be beneficial to insurance companies," he said. "And they're right, but having more people insured and increasing the pool by adding healthier populations reduces the liability for the company and other participants in the plans."
Ryan confirmed he will continue to work on nothing short of repealing the Affordable Healthcare Act and replacing it with what he calls patient-centered healthcare.
"It is incumbent upon citizens and their elected leaders to clear this partisan roadblock with full repeal, and advance common-sense, patient-centered solutions. We can still ensure universal access to quality, affordable health coverage without a budget-busting federal government power grab," his statement contineued. "I remain committed to advancing reforms that realign incentives so that individuals and their doctors – not government bureaucrats or insurance company bureaucrats – are the nucleus of our health care system."
Pocan says health care is a 'right'
State Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison), who is running for U.S. Congress in the 2nd District, said millions of Wisconsin residents receive better health care because of the act.
"In Congress I will continue to work to expand health care,” said Pocan in a prepared statement. “I look forward to the day when every man, woman, and child receives health care as a right, not a privilege."
State Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) said he was pleased with the Supreme Court decision, stating that the “ruling assures our country can move forward in addressing the runaway insurance costs.”
Hintz called for Gov. Scott Walker to implement the provisions of the health care legislation.
“In the past, the governor and Republicans seem to have been more interested in playing politics than in best serving the interests of Wisconsin residents and being good stewards of our tax dollars,” Hintz said. “Now that the law has been upheld, it is my hope we can put our differences aside and work together to ensure Wisconsin is on the forefront of benefiting from this landmark legislation.”
Expert says repeal is unlikely
Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone, who teaches constitutional law, said the ruling is a great victory for supporters of the individual mandate and the Obama administration.
Not surprisingly, Fallone noted that opponents will be hard-pressed to find anything in the justices' opinion to like. Still, he would have liked to see a less confusing approach to the mandate by having it defined under the guidelines of commerce and not a tax.
"I know in the end, the only thing people care about is the end result of upholding the mandate," he admitted.
As for whether or not Republicans in Congress can overturn the health care law, Fallone said the high court's decision means the only option now is to go through the democratic process.
"Congress has the power to change statutes that it previously passed so this, too, could be changed," he said. "Republicans' first strategy was to use the courts, but now they have to get the votes to repeal."
Fallone thinks that will be stretch because the president would have to be defeated and in addition to a majority in the House, Republicans would also need a sufficient majority in the Senate to overcome a Democratic fillibuster.
"It's highly unlikely a legislative repeal would succeed," he added.
"The Republicans will need a sizable sweep in November," Fallone said. "This is a 'huff and puff' fundraising election issue going into the fall elections."
Check out these Patch blogs on the decision