The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision upholding President Barack Obama’s health care reform act, dubbed ObamaCare by opponents, means all Americans will be mandated to purchase health insurance in 2014.
The decision will also help Connecticut’s state budget because it allows the federal government to continue contributing to the state’s Medicaid program.
Connecticut was the first state to participate in a provision of the Patient and Affordable Care Act, which allows it to receive a higher federal reimbursement for its Medicaid population.
In 2010, under then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to apply for and receive partial federal reimbursement for its low-income adults. Previously, the state had funded the program on its own, but now the federal government will be picking up the tab in 2014.
“The Court also recognized the constitutionality of the critical provision of a Medicaid expansion that will allow us to cover people up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level with 100-percent funding from the federal government in 2014,” State Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri, said. “Connecticut has a large, uninsured, low-income population. The Medicaid expansion is vital to the goal of covering the uninsured in our state.”
These Medicaid reforms will save the state hundreds of millions of dollars and likewise the Medicare reforms will save consumers $53 million in prescription drug costs, Veltri said.
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo said the decision “upholds decades of work to ensure that millions of uninsured Americans, including at least a half-a-million Connecticut residents, have access to health care.”
But he warned that this is only a starting point.
“The federal government – and Connecticut – must maintain momentum to reform and improve our health care system at every level,” Lembo said.
Connecticut, unlike other states, has embraced the Patient and Affordable Care Act and has been busy creating an Insurance Exchange, which is the portal through which all Connecticut residents will be asked to purchase insurance in 2014.
Last week, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Kevin Counihan as the first CEO of Connecticut’s Insurance Exchange, which is chaired by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman. Counihan helped implement the nation’s first health care reform law in Massachusetts as its first chief executive officer as well.
“Now that the constitutional issues have been settled, Connecticut and the rest of the country can move full-steam ahead,“ Frances Padilla, executive vice president of Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, said in a statement.
Ellen Andrews, executive director of the Connecticut Health Policy Project, also praised the court’s decision.
“This ruling ensures that all of the provisions of the federal law that make health care more affordable and accessible, including assurances that young people can be insured by parents until 26, bans on refusal for pre-existing conditions and lifetime spending limits, and the individual mandate and $1.5 billion in annual subsidies to help families and individuals get affordable coverage through insurance or Medicaid, remain available to every American,” Andrews said. “With today’s ruling, it is time to set aside the debate over the constitutionality of federal health care reform, to roll up our sleeves and put these provisions into practice here.”
Advocates are expected to gather at the state Capitol around 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon to discuss what amounts to a victory for their cause.
Opponents of the legislation, including members of Connecticut’s Tea Party movement, are upset with the court’s decision. They will gather at 6:30 p.m. on the steps of Cheshire Town Hall.
The decision came as a surprise to opponents who were hoping the court would eliminate the individual mandate, but Chief Justice John Roberts caught them by surprise.
Roberts joined the court’s less-conservative wing in deciding that the law’s monetary linchpin — a mandate that everyone buy health insurance — is constitutional. Roberts agreed with critics that the Obama administration was wrong to justify that mandate on the basis of the Commerce Clause regulating interstate commerce. But he agreed with a secondary Obama administration argument: That the mandate can be considered a tax on people who don’t buy insurance, and that tax is constitutional.