Reaction mixed to Supreme Court’s health care ruling
By James R. Riffel, City News Service
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling Thursday that left many elements of the Affordable Health Care intact respected the powers of Congress, but may have removed the law’s enforcement powers, according to a pair of San Diego professors.
Bryan Wildenthal, a constitutional law expert at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, told City News Service the justices maintained their proper role and respected the powers of the legislative branch.
He said the 5-4 ruling will strengthen the legitimacy of the nation’s high court for the long-term and elevate the reputation of Chief Justice John Roberts, who joined the majority.
“(Roberts) wants to be seen as a judicial statesman and not be seen as someone who follows short-term ideology or partisan goals,’’ Wildenthal said.
Many observers were surprised that the justices upheld President Barack Obama’s overhaul of the nation’s health care system, including the mandate to make people purchase insurance coverage, by invoking Congress’ power to tax. According to Wildenthal, that power is greater than the Commerce Clause challenged by the act’s opponents.
Professor Robert Seidman, an expert in the economics of health care at San Diego State University, said the justices removed some enforcement mechanisms, so the impact of their decision is unclear.
He said the objectives might be difficult to achieve if there is no enforcement of the individual mandate.
“So is it really a mandate? It is a mandate in words only,’’ Seidman said.
“This ruling on the law’s constitutional validity doesn’t change the fact that it’s a bad law,” said District 52 Congressman Duncan Hunter, who represents Ramona and other East County communities in the U.S. House of Representatives. “Health care costs are still rising and now, assuming the law is not ultimately repealed by Congress, there will be new taxes and higher costs imposed on families and businesses. This law, with its expansive programs and cost burden, is not the right solution to the country’s health care challenges.
“Most interesting, the president told the American people that the individual mandate was not a tax. The Supreme Court, in its 5-4 judgment, determined it is, in fact, a tax. Whether viewed as a tax or a penalty, the individual mandate is an overreach of government authority and it will continue to underscore one of the many reasons why this law needs to be repealed.”
San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council CEO Lorena Gonzalez applauded the ruling.
“In the face of intense pressure from corporate special interests, we can now move forward with ensuring that every American has access to affordable health care, strengthening our families, our businesses and our communities,” Gonzalez said. “This is a critical opportunity to provide local families more purchasing power and affirm that lack of access to health care will no longer be a barrier to success.”
Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, posted a message on her Facebook account
thanking the justices for “being umpires and not Chris Van Gorder, president and CEO of Scripps Health, called the ruling significant but said its impact will be dwarfed by changes already taking place in the private sector.
“Regardless of what the court (has) decided, health care in this country is already changing and must keep evolving, because it’s broken,” said Van Gorder, a former chairman of the American College of Healthcare Executives. “This crisis presents a challenge and an incredible opportunity for physicians and hospitals to fundamentally reshape the future of health care.”
He said new procedures for evaluating and treating patients has cut wait times and expenses in emergency rooms, while centralizing and renegotiating pharmacy and purchasing contracts has created more efficiencies.
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