The decision by the Supreme Court last Thursday to uphold most of the controversial Affordable Care Act of 2010 — also known as Obamacare — was received pretty much along party lines by Queens elected officials.
The 5-4 ruling by the country’s highest court was a major victory for President Obama, but Republican opponents are continuing to call for the law’s repeal.
The lengthy measure’s most controversial aspect requires people to have health insurance or pay a fine. The Supreme Court ruled that the fine for lacking insurance is valid as a tax, though otherwise it would not be allowed under the Constitution. Individuals without health insurance will face the fine beginning in two years. Only the very poor are exempt.
Other provisions of the act prohibit insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing medical conditions and allow parents to keep their children on family polices until the age of 26.
“I am pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside.)“It is time to move beyond the right-wing, Tea Party rhetoric against this law, which masked the fact that healthcare in this country is in need of real reform.This legislation is certainly a significant step in the right direction and I applaud the Supreme Court for letting it stand.”
Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx) hopes the decision will lead to a bipartisan effort in Congress. “Over two years ago, President Obama and Democrats in Congress took on the longstanding challenge of improving our nation’s healthcare system. 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. I am pleased our hard work was validated,” Crowley said.
“I also hope a new bipartisan spirit emerges after today,” he added. “Instead of wasting energies on pursuing a repeal of health reform, I hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will start working with Democrats to implement this law in the best way possible and return our attentions to the pressing issues of the day — creating jobs and strengthening the economy.”
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) had a different take on the court’s decision. “We were told by supporters of Obamacare that it was definitely not a tax,” Vallone said. “Now the court is apparently saying that the only way it can pass constitutional muster is because it is a tax. I haven’t read the decision yet, but the American people don’t take kindly to being misled.”
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens, Manhattan) advises fellow Democrats to be vigilant, despite Thursday’s victory. “Today’s decision marks a huge win for the American people. The constitutionality of healthcare reform has today been reaffirmed by our nation’s highest court,” Maloney said.
“We must now put our shoulders to the grindstone in seeking to protect health care reform,” she continued. “We can’t forget that just yesterday, Speaker Boehner promised if the court does not strike down the entire law, the House will move to repeal what’s left of it.”
Republican Rep. Bob Turner, who represents Brooklyn and Queens, said he was disappointed in the ruling. “Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court to uphold Obamacare is disappointing. 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,” he said. “Congress must now rededicate itself to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with common-sense proposals that will lower healthcare costs for all Americans.
“Today’s decision is complicated and it will take time to fully understand,” Turner continued. “However, one thing is clear; this decision has made the law’s implementation more difficult for states, small businesses and families.”
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Queens, Nassau) said the court’s decision is a huge win for the American people. “Republicans were expecting to high five each other today. But fortunately, the highest court in the land KO’d that plan, and quashed their ridiculous claims that providing quality, affordable healthcare to all Americans was unconstitutional,” he said.
“This decision finally ends the practice of insurance companies making healthcare decisions for Americans, and puts consumers in control of their coverage,” he added. “Now, individuals without health insurance will be afforded the opportunity to purchase coverage through new exchanges, and insurance companies will be required to implement landmark protections for everyone such as not denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, prohibiting lifetime caps and banning plans from dropping people who get sick. It also improves coverage for seniors by expanding Medicare and extends provisions that target baby boomers.”
State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said improved healthcare is a priority in his district. “Quality, affordable healthcare is everyone’s goal,” Addabbo said. “It is our job now to get accurate information out to the people on this act.”
He added: “It shouldn’t be a political football. It’s about helping everybody.”
Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) also applauded the decision. “The Supreme Court recognized a necessary, practical and comprehensive overhaul of the largest sector of our economy,” Meng said.
“After so many long, costly, and sometimes bitter discussions about this law and litigation, it is time to move onward and upward,” she added.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said, “The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act is good news for the millions of Americans who lack affordable healthcare. I hope this decision finally ends the divisive partisanship exhibited by the extreme right wing to advance its political goals. Our focus should now be on implementing this law in a way that will cause healthcare costs to decrease and grant more people coverage, particularly for the most vulnerable members of our communities who require additional care.”
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) said that the decision “elicits a collective sigh of relief from 33 million previously uninsured Americans who will receive coverage under the ACA.It brings comfort to 77 million Americans that health insurance companies will no longer be able to deny, restrict, or drop from coverage due to a pre-existing medical condition.The same for millions of children who will be able to stay on the plans of their parents until age 26.”
Meeks went on to ask that the two parties unify under the plan. “Republicans must act in the interest of Americans now, and put the politics aside,” he said.“Instead of rhetoric about repealing the ACA, it is time for Republicans to work toward successful implementation.I remain ready for a bipartisan effort, but Democrats must push forward even in the face of opposition from those in our nation who want to put politics before progress.”
Republican Councilman Dan Halloran of Whitestone was not happy with the decision. “Like most Americans, I am disappointed with the Supreme Court’s ruling. Obamacare is expensive, expansive and unpopular,” Halloran said.
“Americans oppose it by large margins. Obamacare adds hundreds of layers of regulation, rules and bureaucracy to our already-overburdened healthcare industry,” he continued. “Big government Obama Democrats just don’t get it. Today’s ruling has given them the last thing they need — encouragement to add more laws, taxes and rules that make health- care so expensive in the first place.
“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,” Halloran added.
Queens’ other Republican councilman, Eric Ulrich of Ozone Park, agreed. “I am deeply concerned that the decision to uphold Obamacare will lead to healthcare rationing and deep cuts in services for Queens residents. Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Paterson both warned that Obamacare would hurt New York disproportionately as the medical capital of America. It will also cut $500 billion out of our trusted Medicare program. We desperately needed reforms to control rising healthcare costs, but I am afraid this will make things worse.”
Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-Jamaica) called the decision “fantastic” and that the act “will provide the opportunity to cover 30 million people who don’t have health insurance and allows for more preventive care.”
“Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights” said the act “is a real boost to people who need healthcare. I think it will help the country and it’s time to move forward.”
Dromm admitted it’s not perfect: “There are some kinks that need to be worked out,” he added.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) said that now politics is taken out of the equation. “These are exciting times,” Stavisky added. “We need to work together to make sure it works.”
Phil Ragusa, chairman of the Queens Republican Party issued the following statement panning the decision: “While the Queens Republican Party’s Executive Committee appreciates Chief Justice Robert’s rebuff of the Obama administration’s tortured attempt to use the commerce clause to justify an individual mandate as well as the court’s decision not to allow the Obama administration to punish states that do not comply with Obamacare dictates by withholding critical Medicaid dollars, it is obviously disappointing that this economy-killing law survives in any form. Obama’s policy prescription was always worse than the disease.
“That the court upheld it as tax to be collected by the IRS from those unable to afford private insurance unmasks the Obama administration’s hypocrisy. Obama swore time and again it wasn’t a tax but then instructed government lawyers to argue it was a tax.
“This President has once again lied to the American people and levied the largest tax on the people while overseeing the largest expansion of government ever —deepening our recession and causing more pain on the middle class and small businesses — and just to make a name for himself.”