Ohioans react to Affordable Care Act ruling

Jun 28, 2012

As expected, supporters of the Affordable Care Act are cheering the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upholds the power of the feds to require most everyone to have health insurance, and critics of the law are jeering. Moving past the predictable reaction, Statehouse correspondent Bill Cohen reports--the big question for Ohio is "Should the state move ahead with implementing the new national law?"

CL: This is a huge victory for all Ohioans who are now going to have peace of mind that healthcare will be there when they need it.

Cathy Levine heads a coalition of health and anti-poverty activists that have pushed for years to get more Ohioans covered by health insurance.

She says now that the high court has ruled the insurance purchase mandate is constitutional, other positive key parts of the law can be carried out. For example, a ban on insurers refusing to cover people with preexisting conditions. Plus, a requirement that insurers allow adult children in their twenties to stay on their parent's policies. For state senator Larry Obhof, the ruling is a big loss. He actually wrote some of the legal briefs arguing the law is unconstitutional.

LO: In more than 200 years the federal government has never required citizens of the United States to purchase some service or other product.

The verdict is also a loss for attorney general Mike Dewine. He led Ohio into the legal challenge joined by 25 other states. While the court majority bought their argument that interstate commerce didn't justify the feds requiring everyone to have health insurance, the fed's taxing authority does justify fining people who don't obey the mandate.

MD: The Obama administration had originally said it was not a tax. Appellate courts didn't buy the argument it was a tax. So for the first time today, we have five justices from the Supreme Court--people who really matter--who say it's a tax. So that's very surprising.

Governor John Kasich and Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor have balked at helping implement the changes by setting up website exchanges that would let Ohioans compare health insurance policies. But Kathy Levine says there's no longer any excuse for inaction.

CL: It's time to roll up our sleeves and enact the law.

So will Ohio move ahead? Lieutenant Governor Taylor hints the answer is "no."

MT: At this point, the Governor and I don't see how it is in the best interest of Ohioans to have a state-run exchange. Quite frankly, we don't even see where the additional money would come from for us to run that exchange.

Others say Ohio will study and analyze what to do next. But Democratic state senator Nina Turner is frustrated even by that scenario.

NT: We need to get into action and get into gear and make sure that we create our own exchange so that we don't have to have the feds create one for us.

But Tea Party lawyer Maurice Thompson likes the idea of inaction here. He notes last year by a two-to-one margin, Ohio voters OK'ed a constitutional amendment declaring exempt from this kind of requirement. Thompson plans to use that in a new federal lawsuit he'll file to let individual Ohioans avoid the mandate to have coverage. His argument:

MT: Not only can you be forced to undergo medical treatment, but therefore you can't be forced to pay for medical treatment that you don't wish to undergo.

Forget Ohio's so-called Healthcare Freedom Amendment says healthcare Kathy Levine. She calls it "meaningless."

CL: Ohio voters did not understand what they were voting for. A recent poll showed that the majority of Ohioans support the provisions of this law.

BC: You're talking about the benefits of the law not the purchase mandate?

CL: Yes. Well, he can't have one without the other.

Tea Party activists though, still hope Ohio won't move ahead with implementing the federal law. Lawyer Thompson advises "hold off on adding insurance exchange because the federal law could still be wiped out."

MT: By starting an exchange the Republicans would essentially be delivering Ohioans to Obamacare on a silver platter. But that's something that could be extremely avoidable if we're able hold off until November.

Translation --  a Mitt Romney victory in the presidential race could boost the possibility the law is killed or at least softened.