The Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act, also known as “ObamaCare,” has polarized the nation; a response echoed locally.
“This decision has become a rallying point,” said Mark Zaccaria, chairman of the Rhode Island GOP.
The central focus of ObamaCare, the “individual mandate,” has even brought doubt to those in the field.
In a 5-4 ruling last Thursday, the Supreme Court voted that the mandate, which requires those who can afford health insurance to buy it, was not unconstitutional; neither, they concluded, was the penalty, or tax (as it has been labeled) for not buying insurance.
The ruling was followed by an outpouring of responses, both in favor and opposing the Supreme Court’s decision.
Lorna Ricci, president of Ocean State Center for Independent Living (OSCIL), is glad for her clients.
“This is wonderful news for all of us, including people with disabilities,” she said.
Sandra Coletta, president and CEO of Kent Hospital, said she is pleased the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. She said the new plan will ensure that many more Rhode Islanders receive health insurance, decreasing the number of uninsured to roughly 55,000.
There are currently 140,000 Rhode Island residents without health insurance according to a study done for the Rhode Island Foundation.
Coletta said the act would change the way health care providers care for patients.
“We’ll move towards population-based management of care,” she said, noting that hospitals will seek to treat a patient’s overall health and well-being, not just their current ailment. “It will very much change the way health care is delivered.”
Then there are the opponents, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that called the law “fundamentally flawed.”
“Without much-needed reforms, this law is certain to cost many Americans their employer-based health insurance, undermine job creation and raise health care costs for us all,” wrote Rob Engstrom, senior vice president and national political director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in an email letter Thursday night.
Senate candidate Barry Hinckley sent out an email Thursday evening as well. In his statement, Hinckley blasted Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and President Barack Obama.
“Our country did not want or approve of ObamaCare when it was introduced and they still do not now,” he wrote. “Americans oppose it because it will decrease the quality of care, raise taxes, cut Medicare and add trillions of dollars in debt.”
Hinckley said patients deserve more choice, not less.
“The answer to rising health care costs is not, and will never be, more government,” he said. “We don’t need government coming in between patients and their doctors.”
Chairman of the Rhode Island Democratic Party, Edwin Pacheco, targeted Mitt Romney in his emailed letter.
“The Rhode Island Democratic Party proudly stands behind President Obama and our federal leaders in their efforts to pass this landmark health care law,” he wrote. “It's time for Washington to move past the same old political battles over health reform and get to work on the economy. I encourage Mitt Romney and Republicans in Congress to put politics aside and start fighting for the American people.”
Zaccaria said the Supreme Court’s decision will spur people to make major decisions come November.
“It’s not a referendum on Democrats versus Republicans, or even Obama versus Romney,” he said. “It’s a referendum on America.”
Zaccaria said November would be a turning point for people to decide what they want for the future of their nation.
“What do we want the America to look like that our kids come into?” he said. “How does that compare to the America we were taught about in grade school?”
Zaccaria contends that some Americans have turned into frogs in pots of water: “You put the frog in the water, the water in a pot and the fire under the pot. As the water gets gradually warmer, the frog doesn’t notice; but if you dropped the frog into a boiling pot, it’d jump right out. We’re in that slow motion trip towards serfdom.”
Zaccaria said America needs to take a close look at health care as we move further into the 21st century, but strongly disagrees with the methods and ideology behind ObamaCare.
Opponents, like Zaccaria, are concerned about the cost to taxpayers. According to Forbes magazine, if both the premium for insurance and the penalty tax are considered, ObamaCare will be the largest tax increase in American history. But PolitiFact data shows otherwise, citing it as the 10th largest increase.
“This is a tax created for a program that the overwhelming majority of the American people have said for almost three years now that they do not want,” wrote Susan Wynne, Rhode Island Tea Party president in an email. Wynne said in an interview last week that she hopes the Supreme Court’s decision puts people into motion.
“We need to get engaged,” she said. “We need to get involved. Good is going to come out of it.”
Zaccaria said laws like ObamaCare contribute to what he sees as the ongoing erosion of the middle class.
“You can’t be in the middle class if all of your income is taxed away,” he said. “You can be poor.”
Despite the outcry against ObamaCare, there are those who support the move, like SEIU, a health care workers union.
“Our health care system has been in crisis for a number of years – with skyrocketing costs and far too many uninsured individuals in our state and across the country,” wrote Patrick Quinn, executive vice president of District 1199NE SEIU. “The Supreme Court decision correctly affirms that millions of Americans will be able to access affordable health care and benefit from the many consumer protections established by the law.”
President of SEIU Mary Henry named Republicans like presidential candidate Mitt Romney, saying they put their political careers ahead of American interests. Henry called the court’s decision “vitally important.”
Governor Chafee is also a supporter of the Supreme Court’s ruling and the measures implemented by ObamaCare.
“It is an economic imperative that we address the problem of uninsured Rhode Islanders and rising health care costs,” said Governor Chafee in a statement released Thursday. “I’m confident of the clear path forward that we have marked to achieve universal coverage for Rhode Islanders, and now we can get back to that important work with this decision behind us.
Chafee also said the ruling takes into consideration the cost curve for small businesses and their employees, ensuring that tax credits on employee premiums continue.
“We are energized by this decision and will work with Rhode Island’s business community to continue to implement health reform in our state,” he said.
In addition to the “individual mandate,” ObamaCare will allow young adults up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ health care plans as well as an expansion of Medicaid eligibility.