The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act—the massive health care overhaul signed into law by President Obama two years ago.
Reaction from Kansas political leaders is no surprise. Those who support the law are pleased. Those who don’t are not.
Just minutes after the 5-4 decision upholding the law was announced, Kansas Senator Pat Roberts denounced it.
“I’m deeply disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision to keep Obamacare in place. This is the wrong decision for our country. It’s now up to the congress to repeal and replace this law with step-by-step, common-sense, cost-cutting solutions that work for Kansans and all Americans, and that’s what I will do,” said Roberts.
Half an hour later, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback released a two-sentence statement.
“Stopping ObamaCare is now in the hands of the American people. It begins with electing a new president this fall,” wrote Brownback.
But Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger celebrated the ruling, saying she’s eager to implement the health reform law.
“Don’t we think it’s right that people in this country have access to health care? Don’t we think that’s a laudable goal? Don’t we think there’s a moral responsibility that you not be denied health care because you can’t pay for it? I’m proud of our country today that we’ve made that kind of a statement about what our country ought to be doing for everyone,” said Praeger.
Praeger said the first thing Kansans need to figure out now is how to approach the expansion of the Medicaid program.
The Affordable Care Act offers subsidies to make sure that people don’t have to spend any more than about ten percent of their income to purchase health insurance. Those who simply can’t afford it are to be covered by a major expansion of Medicaid in 2014.
The law threatened to withhold Medicaid funding from states that refused to relax their income guidelines for the joint federal/state program that insures those on the lowest rungs of the income ladder. The high court ruling says the federal government cannot withhold all of a state’s Medicaid dollars for refusal to expand eligibility. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says it’s now up to policymakers in Kansas to choose whether to go along with that expansion.
Ron Pollack, of the health reform advocacy group Families USA, says it would be fiscally irresponsible for any state to turn down the funding the Affordable Care Act offers for Medicaid expansion.
“For the first three years, the federal government is going to pay 100 percent of the cost, and it will never go below 90 percent of the cost. So I think this is going to be viewed, ultimately, when the heat of the political rhetoric is over, this is going to be viewed as a good deal for the states,” said Pollack.
Pollack says refusing to go along with the expansion could leave the state holding the bag for some sizeable expenses.
“If the governor didn’t accept it, then the state is on the hook for all of the different ways the state pays for uncompensated health care, whether it’s public hospitals or otherwise. So this is really an act of stupidity. I can’t put it any differently. So I think states all across the country are going to accept it,” said Pollack.