WASHINGTON - Obamacare lives.
America's historic health care overhaul, derided by Republicans as intrusive, costly "Obamacare," narrowly survived an election-year battle at the Supreme Court Thursday with the improbable help of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts.
The 5-4 ruling now makes it certain that major health care changes will move ahead, touching virtually every American's life. And Democrats, who have learned to accept if not love the GOP label for the law, heartily praised the decision.
Supporters of President Barack Obama's health care law celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday, after the court's ruling was announced.
But the ruling also gave Republicans unexpected ammunition to energize supporters for the fall campaign against President Barack Obama, the bill's champion - and for next year's vigorous efforts to repeal the law as a new federal tax
Roberts' vote, along with those of the court's four liberal justices, preserved the largest expansion of the nation's social safety net in more than 45 years, including the hotly debated core requirement that nearly everyone have health insurance or pay a penalty. The aim is to extend coverage to more than 30 million people who now are uninsured
The decision meant the huge overhaul, still taking effect, could proceed and pick up momentum over the next several years, with an impact on the way that countless Americans receive and pay for their personal medical care.
Local health care leaders react to decision
By ANDREW POTTER
Local health care leaders watched closely as the Supreme Court upheld President Barack Obama's individual insurance requirement in his health care overhaul.
Brian Burnside, CEO of Marshalltown Medical & Surgical Center, said he respects the Supreme Court's decision, and it will provide some clarity to the hospital's work in the future, which will continue to focus on improving the quality of care.
He said the law helps provide access to healthcare for many Americans who did not previously have it.
"It's good to have the decision past us and focus on the future," Burnside said.
Burnside said the political aspect of the bill should be left to voters and lawmakers, but he does try to stay in touch with politicians on the issue. He said the bill looks for all health care providers to work together, and they are doing that as MMSC works with McFarland Clinic.
"We're doing that very well," he said.
Dr. Michael Kitchell, board president of McFarland Clinic who works as a neurologist in Marshalltown and Ames, agreed with Burnside in that the upholding of the bill will allow more people to get access to health care.
"It will have an impact on people being healthier," Kitchell said.
While the decision provides clarity for the time being, the landscape of politics can change, especially with the presidential election this fall. Kitchell said this will continue to challenge the health care field to have to adjust.
"If you ask most physicians, even after the decision, there's still a great amount of uncertainty," Kitchell said.
Kitchell also said the decision does not impact their effort to provide quality care and value to McFarland's patients.
Contact Andrew Potter at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org
At the White House, Obama declared, "Whatever the politics, today's decision was a victory for people all over this country." Blocks away, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney renewed his criticism of the overhaul, calling it "bad law" and promising to work to repeal it if elected in November.
Breaking with the other conservative justices, Roberts wrote the judgment that allows the law to go forward. He explained at length the court's view of the insurance mandate as a valid exercise of Congress' authority to "lay and collect taxes." The administration estimates that roughly 4 million people will pay the penalty rather than buy insurance.
Roberts, appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, opposed by young Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and much-criticized by Democrats in recent years, sided with his court's liberals on a major case for the second time this week as the justices concluded their 2011-12 term.
On Monday, he had voted to invalidate parts of Arizona's tough crackdown on illegal immigrants.
In the health care case, Congress had referred to a penalty, not a tax, on people who don't obtain insurance. But Roberts said the court would not get hung up on labels. Among other indications it is a tax, Roberts said, "the payment is collected solely by the IRS through the normal means of taxation."
"Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness," Roberts said.