BOSTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, including the individual insurance requirement at the heart of the law, is being hailed as a vindication for Massachusetts.
Massachusetts laid the groundwork for the 2010 federal health law with its 2006 health care initiative and is currently the only state with an “individual mandate,” requiring that nearly all residents have insurance or face tax penalties.
Gov. Deval Patrick hailed the court’s ruling as a victory for the role of government in helping people help themselves. He said the law gives families more security while holding insurers accountable.
The Democratic governor also praised former Gov. Mitt Romney for signing the state law while at the same time faulting him for his opposition to the federal law.
“Each and every one of the list of horrors Gov. Romney now says will happen in America because of Obamacare did not happen in Massachusetts because of Romneycare,” said Patrick, who serves as a co-chairman of Obama’s re-election committee. Romney is Obama’s Republican challenger.
Patrick had plenty of company in Massachusetts praising the ruling.
Attorney General Martha Coakley, who filed a brief with the high court supporting the federal law, called the decision “a victory for millions of Americans.”
“Massachusetts served as a model for national health care reform and we have already experienced the many benefits of increasing access to quality, affordable health care,” Coakley said.
Democratic U.S. Sen. John Kerry also hailed the decision, criticizing the law’s opponents who he said have tried to distort its requirements.
“Those who have sought to demonize health reform need to put an end to their scare tactics,” Kerry said.
The decision split Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and his Democratic rival, Elizabeth Warren, who staking out very different positions on the ruling in the state’s contentious U.S. Senate race.
Brown, who ran for the Senate pledging to block the initiative, said that while the law may be constitutional, it is wrong for jobs and the economy.
“All we got out of this massive new federal entitlement is higher taxes, cuts in Medicare and additional debt,” he said. “The bottom line for me is this law makes it harder for our economy to add jobs and for that reason I continue to oppose it.”
Warren said the ruling ensures every American can get access to high quality, affordable health care and fair treatment from insurance companies.
“Now is not the time to refight the battles of two years ago,” she said. “Massachusetts led the way in health reform, and we will continue to lead the way in our efforts to reduce the costs of health care and ensure a level playing field for middle-class families.”
The ruling also cast a spotlight on Romney as he campaigns for the White House. Romney has vowed to repeal the federal law even as he has defended the state law it was modeled after — the law he signed in 2006.
“What the court did not do on its last day in session I will do on my first day if elected president of the United States and that is I will act to repeal Obamacare,” said Romney, who argues that health care changes should be left to the states.
Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute, a conservative-leaning Boston-based think tank, called the ruling a “lose-lose for everyone.”
“The fact that this decision was made in essence by a single justice highlights the need for real solutions that can gain broad consensus,” he said.
Many more in Massachusetts praised the decision.
Vicki Kennedy, the widow of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, a health care supporter, applauded the ruling.
“As my late husband Senator Edward Kennedy said: “What we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country,” she said.
The Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, the Massachusetts Hospital Association and the Massachusetts Medical Society — which represents about 24,000 doctors — also issued statements saying they were pleased the court upheld the constitutionality of the federal law.
Madelyn Rhenisch, the first person enrolled in subsidized care in Massachusetts under the state’s health care law, said having insurance allowed her to get back on her feet and re-enter the workforce.
“I can’t imagine living in a state without adequate and affordable health coverage,” Rhenisch said. “I am so relieved and gratified that this security will now be extended to the American people as a whole.”
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