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Albany reacts to SCOTUS decision

Karen Dewitt
Citizen Action celebrates decision on Affordable Care Act

New York’s politicians and major health care providers are applauding the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Obama’s health care law.  Meanwhile, an Albany Law School expert says Chief Justice John Roberts may have been concerned about his legacy, and that was a factor in his decision.  

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was the first to react, in a statement saying one million New Yorkers will soon have access to affordable health insurance coverage.  State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli calls it a “victory” for  New Yorkers and Americans, and says it will bring in $1 billion dollars a year to the state in additional Medicaid dollars.

Hospitals in New York are happy, too. Dan Sisto is head of the state’s largest hospital lobby, the Health Care Association of New York. He says the ruling comes as “welcome news” .

“It provides clarity at a time of massive uncertainty in the economy and the health sector,” Sisto said.

Sisto says hospitals do have lingering worries, though, including whether the federal government will follow through the additional funds needed to fully implement the law.

Blair Horner, with the American Cancer Society, says it’s great news for cancer patients, both present and future.

“For people with cancer or other serious illnesses, the second bad news after a diagnosis is ‘you don’t have health insurance’, said Horner. “That shouldn’t happen now going down the road.”  

Albany Law Professor Vince Bonventre is an expert on the Supreme Court. He recently wrote a blog post entitled  “A court of shameless partisans”. He says too often, the four liberal justices on the court side with Democratic politicians in congress and the four conservative justices rule with Republican Senators and representatives.

“And it’s not along the lines of any consistent constitutional philosophy ,” Bonventre said. “And that’s really a disgrace for the court.”

Bonventre believes that Roberts is well aware of the court’s growing reputation as partisan, and wants to preserve his legacy.

“I was pretty convinced that Roberts was going to do something so that his court wouldn’t look awful,” said Bonventre. “Like a bunch of partisan hacks.”

But he says Roberts remains consistent in his conservative views. The Chief Judge ruled that the President’s health care plan was not constitutional under the federal commerce clause, and that there is no authority to require people to buy insurance.

But he wrote that the health care law is instead constitutional under the nation’s tax laws, because Congress has the authority to tax people who refuse to buy coverage. Bonventre compares the ruling to Chief Justice John Marshall’s reasoning in the early 1800’s case Marbury versus Madison, which established the right of judicial review. In it, Marshall criticizes President Jefferson and his allies, but ultimately sides with them. He calls Robert’s strategy “brilliant”.   

States will now go forward with the health insurances exchange that are required under the health care law. Governor Cuomo has already created one in New York by executive order.

Horner, with the American Cancer Society, says the Governor should work quickly to get the panel up and running in time for the new mandated plans to be offered in 2014.  

“The Cuomo administration really should push the pedal to the metal,” said Horner.

Cuomo, in a statement, says he plans to “move forward” with implementation of the health exchange which he says will help ensure access for New York’s uninsured and lower health coverage costs for business.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.