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What they’re saying: Implications and effects of Supreme Court’s health law decision

Chief Justice John Roberts

It seems the entire universe of quotable people in politics, law, health care and the media was poised to respond instantly to this morning’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act. Here is a roundup of some early analyses and reactions — both legal and political — from around the nation and in Minnesota, plus a consumer-friendly interactive feature showing how the decision might affect you.

Kaiser Health News analyst Stuart Taylor tells Jackie Judd (video and text) that the Affordable Care Act “will be implemented exactly as the architects had envisioned, except maybe Medicaid to some extent. In other words, it’s upheld all the way. The question is: What’s the source of constitutional authority? Why does it make a difference? It can make a difference in future cases. The gist is, the court says Congress can tax anybody, anytime, any way to support the general welfare. And they don’t have to call it a tax. If it acts like a tax, it quacks like a tax, it doesn’t have to be called a tax.” Taylor, who was in the courtroom at the time of the decision, also says, “It was the most amazing Supreme Court theater I’ve ever seen for 50-some minutes.”

At Syracuse.com, Cornell University Law School professor Michael Dorf, a constitutional law expert and former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, said: “The Court’s decision upholding the Affordable Care Act as a tax demonstrates the power of law. Although political and ideological factors invariably play a part in the decisions of Supreme Court Justices, a cross-ideological majority ruled today that the signal legislative accomplishment of a president’s term should not stand or fall on whether Congress used the magic word ‘tax.’ “

Legal analyst Andrew Cohen notes in The Atlantic that, “In affirming the ‘individual mandate’ contained in the Affordable Care Act, in refusing to strike down other portions of the controversial health care law, the chief justice … saved the chief executive of the United States, Barack Obama, from great political embarrassment. At the same time, the chief justice also perhaps spared the Court itself, as an institution, from being dragged further into the thick of partisan fury this election season.”

Cohen also says: “What we have here, then, is an answer to some of the constitutional questions raised by the Affordable Care Act. What we do not have here is a ruling that remotely suggests a bright future for the Commerce Clause, a sharp point Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made from the bench on Thursday. Even in victory, she blamed the Court’s majority for a “retrogressive reading” of the Commerce Clause — one that will likely come back around the next time a new federal law is challenged on this basis. This was no rout.”

In The Daily Beast, Robert Shrum notes that Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe correctly predicted the outcome, and talks about the decision’s implications for Justice John Roberts’ legacy. (Tribe told the New York Times, “This could be a huge day in the evolution of Chief Justice Roberts as a great chief justice.” The Times story says, “Mr. Tribe, who taught Mr. Roberts, said he had not opposed his nomination because he believed Mr. Roberts was less of an ideologue than many charged. ‘I have some sense of gratification,’ he said.”)

Ethan Bronner’s The Caucus blog in the New York Times also addresses the Roberts legacy issue. And Paul Barrett, also commenting on Roberts’ role, writes at Businessweek that the ruling “effectively sidestepped an opportunity to turn the Roberts Court into a political foe of President Obama’s reelection campaign.”

You’ll find other legal scholars’ reactions here, including this from Richard Garnett, associate dean for faculty research and professor of law and political science at the University of Notre Dame and a former law clerk for the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist:

“For people like me, interested in Federalism and judicial review of federal power, the decision had a lot of emphasis of how the Commerce Clause does have limits. The Medicaid expansion decision puts teeth into the notion that the federal government can’t coerce states. At the end of the day, the act is upheld, and that’s a win for the administration. But there was strong emphasis from Chief Justice Roberts on the continuing importance of Federalism, the continuing importance of judicial review.”

Obama and the Republicans

You can watch President Barack Obama’s reaction on this New York Times video.

Republican leaders have renewed calls to repeal the law. You can read a roundup of comments here. Watch presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s reaction here.

In Minnesota

Gov. Mark Dayton released the following statement:

“I am very pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision to fully uphold the Affordable Care Act.  Today’s ruling will be met with relief by the Minnesotans whose lives have already been improved by this law.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, affirmed by the Supreme Court today:

  •  Minnesotans can no longer be denied coverage for preexisting conditions.
  • Seniors pay less for prescription drugs
  • Small businesses will have affordable insurance options for employees
  • Young people can continue to be covered by their parents’ health insurance until age 26.

This ruling is also an affirmation of the reform efforts currently underway in Minnesota to improve the quality and lower the cost of health care.   We have long been a national leader in healthcare reform –a reputation that will be enhanced as we work with private and public sector leaders to implement the Affordable Care Act in Minnesota.”

And Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, and Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger released this statement:

“We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision to fully uphold the Affordable Care Act.   This ruling is an affirmation of the reform efforts currently underway in Minnesota to improve health and lower the cost of care.  The ruling signifies real progress and important protection for citizens across Minnesota: affordable insurance for small business, young people can stay on their parents insurance until age 26, and guaranteed coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. Minnesota has always been a national leader in health care and the administration will continue efforts to increase quality and improve access to insurance and affordable care will continue.”

Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers released the following statement:

“President Obama and Democrats in Congress have unleashed a massive expansion of government that will harm our economy every day until it is repealed. Obamacare contains at least 20 taxes totaling hundreds of billions of dollars that will smother the economy. Add to that the mandates, regulations, bureaucracy and massive costs and this bill will prove itself to be an unworkable disaster of proportions only government can create.

“Look no further than Minnesota’s medical device industry for how Obamacare will slam our economy and kill jobs. Innovative companies that employ highly-skilled workers in well-paying jobs will now be socked with a tax increase for their efforts. We are never going to reach our full economic potential when Democrats punish success in order to expand government.”

For consumers

To determine what the decision means for you: Try this interactive feature by the Washington Post, based on your income, family size, etc.

And here is a health-law Q&A consumer guide from Kaiser Health News.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 06/28/2012 - 04:09 pm.

    Since Minnesota’s Medical Device Industry Developed

    And has thrived,…

    and made massive profits,…

    and paid massive CEO and boards of directors compensation,…

    all in a very “high tax” state, such as Minnesota,…

    and has not seen fit to move it’s headquarters nor its operations to one of the “better business climate” low tax states that Mr. Zellers and his fellow Republicans have been touting as so much BETTER than Minnesota (such as Mississippi),…

    states which NEVER seem to give birth to such industries as Minnesota’s Medical Devices Industry,…

    I strongly suspect that it will continue to thrive even with the miniscule increase in taxes which the Affordable Care Act levies on it.

    When that proves to be the case a decade from now, I wonder if Kurt Zellers will be able to admit that he was wrong, or if his jaw would break or his brain suffer a massive seizure if such words were allowed to pass his lips.

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