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Ind. officials react to health care outcome


By Mark Keierleber




In a narrow 5-4 ruling, the United States Supreme Court upheld President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act on Thursday. While Indiana Democrats showed support for the Supreme Court’s decision, local Republicans are among efforts to repeal the law.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller was one of the 26 attorneys general who filed a legal challenge against the federal health care law in March 2010.

The law, which was passed by Democrats in 2010 and does not take full effect until 2014, will influence how Americans receive medication and health care.

As a result of the decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, provisions in federal law prohibiting insurance companies from discriminating against individuals with pre-existing health conditions will remain in law.

A provision in the law closing the gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage, known as “the donut hole,” will also remain. Small businesses will continue to receive tax credits for offering coverage to their employees.

Under the law, parents will be allowed to keep their children on family health care policies until the age of 26.

“The immediate implications for Indiana are a huge increase in health insurance rates, especially for young people,” Gov. Mitch Daniels said in a press release following the Supreme Court’s decision. “The Court’s ruling that the federal government has the constitutional power to do what it has done must be respected. But many actions that are constitutional are still unwise.”

Although he said he did not know the impact the health care bill would have on the American people, Constitutional law expert Daniel Conkle, the Robert H. McKinney Professor of Law at the IU Maurer School of Law, said the Supreme Court’s decision was an accomplishment for the nation’s highest court.

“Because Chief Justice Roberts voted the way he did, it avoids the impression that the court is simply a partisan decision maker,” Conkle said.

Agreeing with Conkle was David Orentlicher, Samuel R. Rosen Professor of Law and co-director of the William S. and Christine S. Hall Center for Law and Health at the McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, who said the Constitutionality of the health care law compares to that of Medicare.

“It shouldn’t have been this controversial,” Orentlicher said. “I understand the political controversy, but this shouldn’t have been a hard question from a Constitutional standpoint, and they got it right.”

Aside from Medicare, Orentlicher said the federal government already subjects residents to a variety of mandates. Health care, he said, should be no different.

“You’ve been subject to a bunch of mandates already, I’m confident. If you’ve bought a car, Congress has forced you to buy seat belts and air bags and a catalytic converter with it,” Orentlicher said. “If you buy a television, Congress has forced you to buy a V-chip with it. Those kinds of mandates are routine.”

While Democrats rallied in support of the Supreme Court’s decision, Republicans hinted at repeal efforts.

Repealing the entire law, Conkle said, would be difficult because such efforts would require a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and Senate, as well as the White House. But efforts to repeal sections of the law, Conkle said, could be repealed by elected officials from both sides of the aisle.

“There is some movement, for example, to repeal parts of the law that put taxes on medical devices, which is of special interest to Indiana and Bloomington because we have companies that manufacture these medical devices, and they’re getting hit with that tax,” Conkle said.

U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said in a statement that he continues to support full repeal of the “massively expansive ObamaCare law.”

Lugar linked his opposition to the health care law to trillions of dollars in new spending, billions in new taxes and a failure to control an increase in health care costs.

“The reality is ObamaCare has presented additional burdens to small businesses and levies new taxes that will hit American families and job creators in the years to come,” Lugar said in a press release. “The law also fails to keep the President’s promise to let Americans keep the coverage they already have and enjoy.”

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 3 million to 5 million Americans could lose their employer-sponsored coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind., said in a press release he is disappointed the mandate was upheld, saying the law will have negative effects on the economy and job creation.

“However, I am pleased that the Court has affirmed that our federal government is constitutionally limited in its ability to regulate Americans’ lives,” Young said.

In a closed-door House GOP meeting Thursday, Indiana congressman and gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence compared the Supreme Court’s ruling to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to Politico.

“I certainly did not intend to minimize any tragedy our nation has faced, and I apologize,” Pence told Politico in a statement following the meeting.

In response to Pence’s statement, gubernatorial candidate John Gregg said in a statement that the firefighters, first responders and families of thousands of Americans affected by the terrorist attacks deserve an apology.

“For him to compare a disagreement over health care to the deaths of 3,000 Americans goes far beyond the bounds of common decency,” Gregg said in the release. “To compare our legislative and judicial process to a terrorist attack is deeply disturbing and wrong.”

Gregg, who beat cancer and has a son with Type 1 diabetes, said in a statement that he knows firsthand how unexpected health care costs affect families in Indiana, as well as the economy.

“Today’s ruling answers questions for the thousands of Hoosiers who are currently covered under this law,” said Daniel Altman, communications director for the Gregg for Governor campaign, in a statement. “Insurance companies cannot cut your insurance because you get sick. They cannot deny your coverage because you have a pre-existing condition. Young adults can stay on their parents’ policy while they look for a job. Finally, senior citizens will continue to get a break on their
prescription drug costs.”

Planned Parenthood of Indiana President and CEO Betty Cockrum said in a statement that the decision made by the nation’s highest court will ensure affordable, quality health care to hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers.

Additionally, Cockrum said women across the nation will soon have access to birth control with a co-pay.

Nearly half of all pregnancies in Indiana are unintended, and more than half of all births are publicly funded at a cost to taxpayers of nearly $500 annually, according to the Planned Parenthood press release. Indiana has one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation.

“These factors carry an enormous cost, both to our economy and our society,” Cockrum said. “By preventing unintended pregnancy, we ensure that more of the children who are already among us have the opportunity to thrive.”

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