Mixed responses from state interests after Supreme Court upholds Affordable Care Act

Washington state lawmakers and public officials were quick to react on June 28 after the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would uphold most provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law informally called “Obamacare.”

Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Rick Larsen, both Democrats, praised the ruling.

“This is a victory for the health care security and stability of Washington families. … Today, with this ruling, my hope is that they have been provided peace of mind knowing that the change they fought for has not been defeated,” Murray said in a statement.

Larsen took to the House floor, saying the Supreme Court’s decision was a win for middle-class families.

“More than 173,000 people in northwest Washington state now have health insurance that covers preventive care without co-pays or deductibles,” Larsen said to members of Congress. “It is time to move forward on health care and today America took a great step.”

State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler was relieved the law was upheld, and said in a statement that Washington state is already ahead of most states in reforming its health care system.

“I’m very pleased the Supreme Court chose to uphold the Affordable Care Act,” Kreidler said. “We’ve been busy for two years now implementing the reforms and have made great progress, but there’s a lot left to do before 2014. With the court decision out of the way, we can continue our focus on where it should be— bringing relief to families struggling to find quality, affordable health insurance.”

Yet Republican state senators Janea Holmquist Newbry and Val Stevens were disappointed with the ruling and vowed to continue their opposition to the health care reform law.

Stevens, who represents the state’s 39th District, was particularly opposed to the court’s ruling on whether the federal government was legally allowed to require all U.S. citizens to purchase health insurance or pay a fine.

The law’s insurance-buying mandate was at the center of the debate over the bill’s legality. Reform opponents said the government had no right to force Americans to buy insurance.

In a 5-4 decision, the high court interpreted the health care law’s mandate as a tax, effectively making the requirement constitutional under Congress’ tax-issuing authority.

“I am extremely disappointed that the court decided that the federal government does not have the right to force us to buy health insurance, yet allowed the law to stand under Congress’ authority to tax,” Stevens said in a statement. “This is not how Obamacare was sold, and it would have never passed in Congress had the administration been honest about the nature of the bill.

Holmquist Newbry said she would reintroduce the Washington State Health Care Freedom Act, first brought to lawmakers in 2010, that would be designed to protect the state’s employers and workers from taxes, fines and penalties if they refused to participate in the new law. It would also seek to void any any action by the federal government found to violate the new law’s provisions.

According to a statement from Don Brunell, president of the Association of Washington Business, the new law will likely increase costs for businesses both in Washington and across the nation.

“There’s no question health care costs need to be addressed, and even in light of today’s decision, we still feel the federal law misses the mark,” Brunell said. “Not only does it have the potential to increase the cost of coverage, it also will likely add to our state and federal deficits.”

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