Inspired & Incensed by ‘obamacare’ Vote

Local Reaction To Supreme Court Ruling

Elected officials across Queens were quick to react to the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 last Thursday, June 28-and, not surprisingly, their opinions were divided along party lines.

Democratic lawmakers applauded- and Republican legislators condemned-the 5-4 decision by the court to uphold the law’s mandate that every American purchase health insurance or face a penalty on their income tax returns.

Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative, joined the bench’s four liberal members-Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Donna Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor-in ruling in the majority. Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas-the other members of the court’s conservative wing-and moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy voted to oppose the mandate.

The Supreme Court also upheld other provisions in the law colloquially known as ‘ObamaCare,’ including prohibiting insurance companies from disqualifying those with pre-existing medical conditions from coverage and allowing parents to keep their children under their health insurance plans up to age 26. The court, however, struck down regulations which would have compelled states to expand Medicaid coverage.

Democratic members of the Queens Congressional delegation who voted in favor of the Affordable Care Act when it came before the House for a vote in the spring of 2010 praised the court’s ruling as a win for millions of people who currently lack health insurance.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling is a victory for New Yorkers and all Americans,” said Rep. Nydia Velázquez. “Upholding the Affordable Care Act will mean that 80,000 uninsured residents in New York’s 12th Congressional District will have access to coverage. Nationally, 2.5 million additional young adults up to age 26 now have health insurance through their parent’s plan. Seventeen million children with preexisting conditions, who could otherwise be denied coverage, will no longer be turned away. Being a woman is no longer a preexisting condition or a justification for charging women more for coverage.”

“We worked to put an end to runaway premium increases and arbitrary coverage denials, to improve and strengthen Medicare and to create options for individuals and small businesses to purchase quality and affordable insurance,” added Rep. Joseph Crowley. “I am pleased that today, our hard work was validated.”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney stated that she looked “forward to seeing the principal provisions of the Affordable Care Act take effect: more coverage, lower costs for the middle class and small businesses; safeguards for all patients with pre-existing conditions and better accountability for insurance providers.”

The only Republican congressman representing parts of Queens- Rep. Bob Turner, who was elected last September to fill the Ninth Congressional District seat vacated by former Rep. Anthony Weiner-called the decision “disappointing” and said he would support efforts by Republican leaders in the House to have the full act repealed.

“While declared constitutional, the Supreme Court’s ruling does not change the fact that it is still a very bad law,” Turner said. “Congress has already found many mandates in ‘ObamaCare’ that would hurt small businesses and kill jobs. Several more taxes and burdensome regulations on small businesses are set to go into effect in the next two years. Congress must now rededicate itself to repealing ‘ObamaCare’ and replacing it with common sense proposals that will lower health care costs for all Americans.”

The Democratic and Republican nominees for the new Sixth Congressional District seat in central Queens-Assemblywoman Grace Meng and City Council Member Daniel Halloran, respectively- stood on opposite sides regarding the court’s ruling.

“The Supreme Court recognized a necessary, practical and comprehensive overhaul of the largest sector of our economy,” said Meng, who is based in Flushing. She went on to note that “health care in America is a $2 trillion-plus economy, with hundreds of billions of dollars in care unpaid for every year. Ambitiously engaging the dangerous shortcomings of this massive market, which impacts everybody everywhere regardless of their family finances, was an appropriate decision by the president and can now proceed.”

“‘ObamaCare’ is expensive, expansive and unpopular. Americans oppose it by large margins,” countered Halloran, who is based in Bayside. “‘ObamaCare’ adds hundreds of layers of regulation, rules and bureaucracy to our already-overburdened health care industry … Even in upholding ‘ObamaCare,’ the Supreme Court held that it’s a tax- the biggest tax increase in American history. That’s the last thing we need in these economic times.”