PA Lawmakers Respond to Healthcare Ruling

PA Lawmakers Respond to Supreme Court Ruling on Healthcare

With the recent upholding of the Supreme Court challenge to Obama's signature healthcare legislation, The Affordable Care Act (ACA), PA lawmakers on both sides of the aisle took the opportunity to respond with their thoughts and opinions.  While much of the commentary followed partisan lines, most responses seemed geared toward moving forward, perhaps reflecting the notion that for many Pennsylvanians, positive changes have already been noticed.

For example, an estimated 4,500 Pennsylvanians, who had previously been denied for pre-existing conditions, now have healthcare.  In addition, the Act's expanded coverage for children up to the age of 26 under their parents' plans has drawn widespread support.  "More than 1.1 million Pennsylvania children benefit from the law's prohibition against lifetime limits on care, and 65,000 young adults in Pennsylvania are able to stay on a parent's health insurance plan because of the law," said President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Partnership for Children, Joan Benso.  Additional information on the immediate benefits to Pennsylvania residents and businesses can be found here.

However, the mood was not all positive.  Republicans, by and large, opposed the ruling, noting that this November's elections will perhaps be the final "deciding vote."  Rep. Matt Gabler, R-Clearfield, said the ruling was "certainly unfortunate" and predicted it would become a central issue of the upcoming national election.  "I think it really underscores the importance of the upcoming election," he said. "Americans will have to decide for themselves if this is the direction they want the country to go."

Republican Governor Tom Corbett has been an opponent of the law from the start.  Shortly after President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010, several states' Attorneys General jumped on a lawsuit challenging the law's constitutionality. Then-Pennsylvania Attorney General, now-Governor Tom Corbett was one of them, joining the federal lawsuit on March 23, the day the law was signed.  The Governor released a statement that can be read here, correctly pointing out that the Supreme Court agreed with the central provision of the lawsuit; Congress acted beyond its authority under the Commerce Clause.

Moving forward, there are large sums of federal money at stake based upon Pennsylvania's ability to comply with the requirements of the ACA.  At the center of the ACA is the requirement that each State must set up an insurance exchange that will create a type of market where consumers can go to purchase insurance.  The thought being, this type of market will promote competition and keep prices down, thereby making healthcare affordable. The Obama administration has stated that it will allow the States "maximum flexibility" in regulating insurance companies within the exchanges but the burden is on the individual State to set up its own exchange and a State's failure to do so will force them into a situation where they either have to enter the National insurance exchange or lose out on large amounts of federal funding.

Pennsylvania lawmakers will have one more big choice to make: every state now must choose whether to "opt in" to the ACA's expanded Medicaid terms that would require every state to cover almost all persons at or below 133% of the poverty line in return for unusually generous federal matching funding.   For opt-in states, the federal government has promised to pay 100% of the cost of the expansion for its first three years, and 90% thereafter.   Some States will undoubtedly reject this generous deal on principle (some would say spite), thus making a political point on the backs of their poorest citizens. But for most states once the litigation dust settles the deal offered by the ACA may be too good to pass up.