STEUBENVILLE - Political reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Obama Administration's health care plan could be gauged Thursday by the political party affiliation, as Republicans expressed anger and disappointment and Democrats indicated changes in the law may be needed.
The Supreme Court narrowly upheld President Barack Obama's historic health care overhaul in a 5-4 vote, and that includes the mandate that virtually all Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty. The swing vote appeared to come from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, said he was "very disappointed by the Supreme Court ruling."
"When the Congress returns from its break we will work very hard to repeal this law and we will replace it with a common sense health care law that will create competition for the insurance companies and drive the costs of health care down and protect our senior citizens," stated Johnson.
"We will not do what President Obama did and put a 3,000-page bill on the floor that no one understands. We will make health care affordable and create tort reform to eliminate malicious lawsuits. Our doctors should be in the operating room, not the courtroom. Some 50 percent of our college graduates are unemployed these days and I believe allowing them to remain on their parents' health care until the age of 26 is a good thing. But it shouldn't be mandated. It should be allowed," said Johnson.
Johnson also called for health savings accounts, portability of insurance between jobs and states.
"We have to remember we do not have a government for the Supreme Court, by the Supreme Court and of the Supreme Court. They did not rule on the merits of the health care law, only the constitutionality. The American people will have the final say on Nov. 6," said Johnson.
And while Republicans reacted with strong language to the court ruling, Democrats appeared willing to recognize changes are needed in the health care law.
Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, a Democrat from St. Clairsville, who supported the measure when he was in the Congress and is challenging Johnson for the 6th Congressional seat, said in a telephone interview he has said all along the health care law isn't perfect.
"But once I am elected to return to the Congress, I will work with my Republican colleagues across the aisle to create jobs and make health care more affordable for all residents of the Ohio Valley," stated Wilson.
"And I challenge Bill Johnson to understand what is important to the people of the district," added Wilson.
U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley, R-Wheeling, also was critical of the Supreme Court decision in upholding Obama's health care plan.
"I am disappointed the Supreme Court upheld a health care plan that clearly goes against our Constitution. Not only is Obamacare a bad policy that has increased health care costs, exploded the deficit and hurt small businesses, it is based on dubious constitutional authority," McKinley said.
"We will continue our fight to fully repeal Obamacare. All Americans should have the right to make their own health care choices. Restricting choice and punishing individuals and employers is the wrong way to reform health care, whether the court agrees or not. Once Obamacare is fully repealed, we will not rush into the same mistakes made by President Obama and the Democrats. We need to listen to the American people to get health care reform right, and we should take the time to do so," remarked McKinley.
"Supreme Court justices appointed by presidents of both parties today made an independent legal judgment to uphold the health law. I hope today's ruling will put an end to the partisan bickering so that we can continue our focus on jobs and improving the economy" U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said.
"Today's ruling means that more than 1.2 million Ohio seniors will continue to have access to cancer screenings and wellness exams through Medicare. Nearly 97,000 young adults in our state will continue to be able to stay on their parents' health insurance until they're 26. Parents of children with pre-existing conditions like cancer, asthma or diabetes will no longer worry that they will be unable to buy health insurance," Brown continued.
According to U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, "While the court has deemed the law constitutional as a tax on the American people, it is still flawed policy that is unaffordable for our families, our small businesses and our government. The president's one-size-fits-all health care spending law is the centerpiece of a failed agenda that has increased economic uncertainty, stalled job creation and deepened the spending hole that Washington has dug. There was, and still is, a better way to improve our health care system without the heavy hand of government and massive new taxes. I'm hopeful the president will be willing to work with Republicans and Democrats alike on patient-centered health care that actually reduces costs and expands access."
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the health care issues will now "be fought in the political arena and will be the preeminent issue of the presidential campaign."
"There is a victory in this case. The Supreme Court did not expand the powers under the Commerce Clause. While I am disappointed in Justice Roberts' decision, he was the leader in restricting the Commerce Clause, an expansion of which would have been detrimental to our country. If that would have been upheld, it would mean there are no limits to what Congress could compel Americans to purchase.
"While we lost the battle over Obamacare, we did win the war on the true meaning of the Commerce Clause."
U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., called for a national dialog on health care.
"One concern I have is the impact of the Supreme Court ruling today on the Medicaid expansion. When we wrote the law, we worked very hard to make sure that low-income Americans who aren't currently eligible for Medicaid, but still can't afford to pay for health insurance, are given an affordable option through the expansion of Medicaid. It appears the ruling could have seriously undermined their health care options. The decision still leaves in place an enormous financial incentive for states to do the right thing and expand coverage to this group," Rockefeller said.
"There simply is no moral justification for anyone sitting back when individuals and families throughout our state don't have health insurance. And there is no financial justification for a health care system that forces people to seek care in the emergency room because they can't afford insurance. Uncompensated care for the uninsured adds $2,000 on average to family health insurance premiums and $760 on average to individual health premiums in West Virginia," he added.
"We should all recognize that the health care challenges that many West Virginians and Americans face are not going to go away unless Congress takes additional action to repair this bill," said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. "Now that the court has ruled, we can move forward with fixing what is wrong with this bill and saving what is right. I have always been determined to reduce the burden on states from the Medicaid expansion, and this ruling affirms my position and makes clear that states must have the flexibility to live within their means by determining Medicaid eligibility as each state sees fit. I have always said one size doesn't fit all.
"In addition, I believe there are several parts of this bill that are good for West Virginians, especially ending discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, improving access to preventive care and eliminating the prescription drug doughnut hole for seniors. Looking ahead, we must work to find common ground on the individual mandate, which doesn't make sense to West Virginians. I am determined to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move forward with a solution," he said.
"We know what the law is but as I've said before, I will continue to do what is best for West Virginia. We all know health care costs continue to rise and our health care system must be more efficient. We're going to review the Supreme Court's ruling and work with our federal delegation on how we move forward," commented West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
The Rev. Terence Henry, TOR, presient of the Franciscan Universtiy of Steubenville, repeated a stand he has taken since the 2010 Affordable Care Act became law.
"The Health and Human Services mandate remains an unjust infringement on religious liberty, and we cannot in good conscience comply with its orders. Accordingly, we will continue standing with our bishops to pursue avenues of redress in order to defend our right to practice our Catholic faith," Henry noted in a prepared statement issued Thursday afternoon.
The university joined other religious institutions in May to file a lawsuit against the Obama Administration and the health care law.
At that time Henry predicted a nationwide lobbying effort if the health care mandate was allowed to remain law.
"We will contact our Ohio senators and representatives as well as senators and representatives across the country. We have alumni living in every state and we will ask all of them to contact their representatives and urge the repeal of this law," Henry said during a May press conference announcing the lawsuit.
Monsignor Kurt Kemo, administrator for the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville, called for prayers for lawmakers, "to pass legislation that will fix conscience, abortion funding and immigration problems in the present law."
"For nearly a century, the Catholic bishops in the United States have been and continue to be consistent advocates for comprehensive health care reform to ensure access to life-affirming health care for all, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable. The decision of the Supreme Court neither diminishes the moral imperative to ensure decent health care for all, nor eliminates the need to correct the fundamental flaws, including allowing use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions and for plans that cover such abortions, failing to include necessary language to provide essential conscience protection, both within and beyond the abortion context, and failing to treat immigrant workers and their families fairly," Kemo stated.
"The ruling by the Supreme Court on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does not change the mission of Trinity Health System. We will continue to serve the health and human services needs of our local communities while holding fast to our core values of reverence, service and stewardship. We have been preparing for health care reform even before it's adoption and will continue to be responsive to the needs of our area," Trinity Healthcare System spokesman Keith Murdock said in a prepared statement.
Weirton Medical Center Spokesman Kevin Brown said Thursday afternoon the hospital will meet the law's requirements.
"While it is too soon to comment on the specifics or the impact of (Thursday's) Supreme Court ruling on health insurance requirements for individuals, we can say that, as the Affordable Care Act unfolds over the next few years, Weirton Medical Center will be ready to implement measures to accommodate the law's requirements. We are committed to ensuring that all members of our community have access to the quality health care services they need and expect."
A statement from the Wheeling-Charleston Catholic Diocese from Bishop Michael J. Bransfield repeated opposition by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to the Affordable Care Act.
"First, the ACA allows use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions and for plans that cover such abortions, contradicting longstanding federal policy. The risk we identified in this area has already materialized, particularly in the initial approval by the Department of Health and Human Services of "high risk" insurance pools that would have covered abortion," Bransfield stated.
"Second, the act fails to include necessary language to provide essential conscience protection, both within and beyond the abortion context. We have provided extensive analyses of ACA's defects with respect to both abortion and conscience. Third, ACA fails to treat immigrant workers and their families fairly. ACA leaves them worse off by not allowing them to purchase health coverage in the new exchanges created under the law, even if they use their own money. This undermines the Act's stated goal of promoting access to basic life-affirming health care for everyone, especially for those most in need," said Bransfield.