Health reform upheld

The deliberation is finally over: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act stays.

The Supreme Court announced this morning that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is, in fact, constitutional, ending months of speculation and debate over President Obama’s long-fought battle. The lawpiece, the individual mandate, will have both immediate and long-term ramifications for almost all Americans, but mostly for the nation’s 50 million uninsured.

The Court upheld the mandate as a tax by a 5-4 vote.

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi declared the court's ruling a "victory for the American people."

"With this ruling, Americans will benefit from critical patient protections, lower costs for the middle class, more coverage for families, and greater accountability for the insurance industry," she said.

Others weren't so happy about the decision.

"While the Supreme Court’s decision about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act determined the outcome of one of the most significant judicial cases of the century, no one has yet addressed one of the most pressing issues facing our nation: the rising cost of health care," said Adam Bruckman, president and CEO of Digital Insurance. "Our country still does not have measures in place to control a system that is on an unsustainable cost trajectory. If we are to affect meaningful change, we are obligated to devise methods to curb rising expenses."

See "Your guide to health reform"

Earlier this month, insurance giants UnitedHealth Group, Humana and Aetna said they would keep some popular parts of President Obama’s health reform overhaul even if the Supreme Court kills the law. States already have been at work implementing measures of the law, and many have argued killing the law could have messy ripple effects.

For the most part, Americans didn’t seem to favor this verdict. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released Tuesday, just 28 percent of Americans said they would be pleased if the PPACA was ruled constitutional, compared with 37 percent who said they would be happy if the PPACA was ruled unconstitutional.

Of course, the individual mandate has been the major bone of contention with the PPACA, with numerous polls repeating the same information: Americans don’t like it.

Most recently, a Harris poll found two-thirds of the public disapproved of the individual mandate. But that didn’t stop them from liking other parts of the law: For example, four in five U.S. adults agree that neither children nor adults should be denied health insurance if they have a pre-existing condition (83 percent), and three-quarters of Americans agree tax credits should be offered to individuals if they bought their own health insurance.

President Barack Obama signed the act on March 23, 2010, among strong partisan lines. Soon after, 26 states—led by Florida—sued the government over the mandate, arguing individuals couldn’t be forced to buy insurance.

After three days of politically charged arguments March 26-28 over the constitutionality of the PPACA, the Supreme Court promised to announce its decision by the end of June. Further building anticipation, the Court waited to the last decision day of the month, just before they end their term.

Though there were a variety of possible outcomes, most were expecting one of three: upholding the law entirely; striking down the individual mandate but keeping the rest of the law; or killing the law altogether.

Still, many argue the law doesn’t do enough to reform health care. In a Doctor Patient Medical Association survey released Wednesday, for example, doctors said the law would have little impact on patients’ access to medical care.

“Doctors on the frontlines clearly understand what Washington does not,” says Kathryn Serkes, DPMA chair. “Government-mandated ‘coverage’ is not the same thing as actual medical care. We’ll still have millions who need medical care.”

“What PPACA does is increase patients’ access to a piece of paper that says they are ‘covered’ by insurance or ‘enrolled’ in Medicaid or Medicare,” she says. “But paper promises don’t translate to actual medical care when doctors can’t afford to see patients at the lowball payments, and patients have to jump through bureaucratic hoops set up by the government.”

Additionally, opponents of the law say, the law does little or nothing about ever-rising health care costs.

This is likely not the end of the road for PPACA arguments. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has argued against Obama’s health care bill and said he would work to have it repealed on day one of his presidency, if elected.

He told supporters Tuesday: “We’ll have to have a president—and I'm that one—that’s gonna get rid of Obamacare. We’re gonna stop it on day one.”

This story has been updated.

Continue to get more information live at BenefitsPro.com.

The opinion in the health care cases has been released and can be viewed here.

 
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