WBAL Radio
July 2, 2012

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the individual insurance requirement at the heart of President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul. The decision means the huge overhaul, still only partly in effect, will proceed  and pick up momentum over the next several years, affecting the way that  countless Americans receive and pay for their personal medical care. The ruling also hands Obama a campaign-season victory in rejecting arguments that Congress went too far in requiring most Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty.

Breaking with the court’s other conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts announced the judgment that allows the law to go forward with its aim of covering more than 30 million uninsured Americans.

The justices rejected two of the administration’s three arguments in support of the insurance requirement. But the court said the mandate can be construed as a tax.

“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.

The court found problems with the law’s expansion of Medicaid, but even there said the expansion could proceed as long as the federal government does not threaten to withhold states’ entire Medicaid allotment if they don’t take part in the law’s extension.

The court’s four liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, joined Roberts in the outcome. Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

“The act before us here exceeds federal power both in mandating the purchase of health insurance and in denying non-consenting states allMedicaid funding,” the dissenters said in a joint statement.

Republican campaign strategists said presidential candidate Mitt Romney will use the court’s ruling to continue campaigning against “Obamacare” and attacking the president’s signature health care program as a tax increase. “Obama might have his law, but the GOP has a cause,” said veteran campaign adviser Terry Holt. “This promises to galvanize Republican support around a repeal of what could well be called the largest tax increase in American history.”

Obama Calls Supreme Court Ruling A ‘Victory’

President Barack Obama says the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold his health care overhaul is a “victory for people all over the country” and will make their lives more secure.  Obama says the decision upholds the fundamental principle that in America -the wealthiest nation on earth – no one should fall into financial ruin because of an illness.

The president says the decision means that people with pre-existing medical conditions will not be discriminated against and people will be able to afford quality health care.

The nation’s highest court on Thursday upheld the individual insurance requirement at the center of the president’s overhaul. Polling has suggested that most Americans oppose the law and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney vowed again after the ruling to seek its

Romney: Supreme Court Ruling On Health Law Wrong

Republican Mitt Romney is promising that he will repeal the federal health care law the Supreme Court just upheld. He called the decision incorrect and said Thursday that it is “bad law.” He says it raises taxes and cuts Medicare.

Romney says that, if elected in November, he will work to repeal and replace the law. But he hasn’t said precisely how.  As Massachusetts governor, Romney signed into law a measure that required all state residents to have health coverage. That notion was the cornerstone of the law enacted by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats. The high court decided it was constitutional.

Maryland Impact

Gov. Martin O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said Thursday the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold nearly all of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul gives considerable momentum to reform efforts in Maryland.

Maryland has passed legislation to create a health care exchange, setting up standards and regulations to run the program and creating the framework for a marketplace where individuals and small businesses can buy coverage. While opponents said the state was moving too fast with the legislation before knowing the outcome of the high court’s ruling, Brown said Maryland is now ahead of the process to implement the historic overhaul.

“We didn’t want to look back on today and say: ‘Boy, you know, the Supreme Court, they did get it right, but look at all the time that we wasted sitting around waiting for them to decide,'” Brown, a Democrat who led health care reform efforts for the O’Malley administration, said. “So, we’ve been leaning forward. We’ve been implementing, I think, really establishing ourselves as a model around the country, and today gives us the complete green light to go full steam ahead.”

Joshua Sharfstein, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said the state plans to move forward with increasing Medicaid coverage levels for adults to 133 percent of the federal poverty threshold beginning in 2014.

“I think we saw this as a very important part of the law,” he told The Associated Press in an interview after the ruling was made public. The secretary added: “There’s an enormous benefit for the state to having coverage for people who otherwise we’re paying for.”

Charles Milligan, deputy secretary at the state’s health department, said the expansion of Medicaid coverage should cover about 190,000 people by the end of the decade. He said the department anticipates more than 100,000 people
will enroll by 2015.

“What we anticipate is that in combination with the coverage in the exchange and the overall expansion in the health reform law, the uninsured rate would drop by half,” Milligan said. “We would have about 400,000 people covered between the exchange and Medicaid who otherwise would be uninsured at the end of the decade.”

Maryland has about 747,000 residents who do not have health insurance.Milligan said that in 2020, the first year in which the state has to pick up 10 percent of the cost for expanding the threshold to 133 percent, the cost to the state would be about $51 million. But in the same year, the state would receive $131 million in federal dollars because the federal government is taking over a financial responsibility the state is currently meeting with a substantial amount of state funding.

Maryland Republicans expressed disappointment in the ruling.

“Let me just say that although the ruling is disappointing, we have to remember that it was a very close decision that upheld this individual mandate as a tax, and it’s something that has been repeatedly denied by the policy makers who pushed this legislation through,” said Delegate Anthony O’Donnell, the House minority leader in Maryland who supports repeal of the law.

As part of a special session in 2007, O’Malley’s first year as governor, Maryland approved expanding health care coverage to 116 percent of the poverty threshold. That change has expanded health care to more than 100,000 parents and children, said Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative.

“This law allows us to go beyond that – to go to 133 percent of poverty, which is roughly $30,000 a year for a family of four for parents and childless adults,” DeMarco said.

Hospital Stocks Jump After Health Care Ruling

HCA Holdings stock rose 8 percent, and Community Health Systems stock also rose 8 percent.Stocks of big insurance companies dropped sharply when the ruling came out shortly after 10 a.m. EDT, then climbed back somewhat. They were down about 1 percent, roughly the same as stocks in the broader market.

Stocks of drug companies and medical device makers were also slightly lower.Chief Justice John Roberts announced the court’s judgment, which allowed the law to go forward with its aim of covering more than 30 million uninsured Americans.

Rush To Report US Health Ruling Trips Up CNN, Fox

In the rush to report the Supreme Court’s health care decision on Thursday, CNN and Fox News Channel initially got the story wrong, briefly worrying President Barack Obama, delighting Republican lawmakers and reminding journalists that accuracy trumps speed.

It was an excruciating test for reporters who were handed a 59-page decision choked with legalese and asked to report its meaning almost instantly.Bloomberg News and The Associated Press were the first reporting the news -correctly, at 10:07 a.m. EST – that the court upheld most of Obama’s health care overhaul and a mandate that nearly every American have health insurance. They were followed by Reuters and the SCOTUSblog.

The New York Times made a point of tweeting that reporters and editors were analyzing the decision and would write when comfortable it had the nuances correct, and tweeted the news first at 10:20 a.m.

CNN apologized for its error, saying that it “regrets that it didn’t wait to report out the full and complete opinion” that upheld the mandate requiring virtually all Americans have health insurance. A Fox executive, however, said “Fox reported the facts, as they came in.”

The inaccurate reports were seen first by the president, who was watching four television monitors outside the Oval Office, until White House Counsel Katherine Ruemmler came in moments later with the true story.

It was particularly embarrassing for CNN, which has suffered through one of its worst ratings quarters in several years, primarily due to a paucity of big news. The network eagerly awaited the court’s decision on Thursday, running a “countdown clock” to 10 a.m. on its screen for hours.

Anchor Wolf Blitzer and reporter Kate Bolduan reported at 10:08 a.m. that the health care law was struck down, based on a reading of Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision that the mandate was not a valid exercise of congressional power under the commerce clause. The CNN screen read: “Supreme Ct. Kills Individual Mandate.” The news was tweeted and emailed to the network’s followers.

“The court striking down that mandate is a dramatic blow to the president,” said CNN reporter John King.By 10:13 a.m., some doubt had seeped in, and the onscreen headline read: “Supreme Court Rules on Obama Law.”

“Let’s take a deep breath and see what the justices actually decided,” Blitzer said. “It could be more complicated than we originally thought.”

Two minutes later, CNN reported the correct decision – the court had upheld the individual mandate, basing it not on the commerce clause but on taxation laws. CNN then reported that the entire law had been upheld, with King calling it “a huge, huge victory for President Obama.”

On Fox, Bill Hemmer touted the “breaking news” that the individual mandate had been declared unconstitutional. A Twitter account run by Fox anchor Bret Baier’s show tweeted the same news. Within two minutes, however, anchor Megyn Kelly was citing SCOTUSblog as casting doubt on that interpretation, ordering producers to change an onscreen headline that read: “Supreme Court Finds Health Care Individual Mandate Unconstitutional.”

“We’re trying to do the best we can,” Hemmer said.

The initial report on Baier’s Fox show Twitter feed was deleted, followed by the tweet: “Getting word that the individual mandate will survive as a tax – we are trying to work this out for you – more to come.”

Michael Clemente, Fox executive vice president of news and editorial, was unapologetic. “We gave our viewers the news as it happened,” he said. He said Hemmer reported that the mandate was not constitutional under the commerce clause, although the network’s reporting gave the impression that the mandate had been fully struck down.

Obama’s first news about the decision came from television monitors outside the Oval Office, where the cable channels were reporting that the mandate had been struck down, according to administration officials. Within moments, Ruemmler hurried toward the White House and flashed the president two thumbs up. She explained her reading, and Obama hugged her as Chief of Staff Jack Lew looked on.

The Huffington Post’s politics Twitter feed first made the wrong call and corrected itself, saying “we jumped the gun” following the CNN and Fox News reports.

Caution was discussed ahead of time during several planning meetings at The New York Times, said Jim Roberts, assistant managing editor. The paper was willing to take a few extra minutes to make sure it had exactly the right interpretation, he said.

“It’s almost stupidly obvious to say, ‘We want to be right,’ but we want to be right,” he said.

ABC, CBS and NBC all interrupted programming for special reports and all generally got it right. The scene was reminiscent of the Supreme Court’s
decision that decided the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, with reporters standing onscreen, frantically leafing through pages as they tried to read and interpret at the same time.

ABC’s Terry Moran had less than a minute to look at the decision before he was talking on the air to anchor George Stephanopoulos and he briefly vamped for time, saying “I’m just taking a quick look at it.”Describing the difficulty of the process in an interview, he said, “you have to be
confident enough to say, ‘I don’t know.'”

In this case, Moran quickly spotted that Roberts had decided the case in agreement with the court’s liberal justices, a sign that it was highly unlikely the health care law had been overturned. ABC did bobble one fact initially, incorrectly saying the court’s decision was by a 6-3 vote instead of 5-4.

Moran said Thursday’s lesson to journalists should be “slow down.””I actually think the audience is much more interested in understanding than in
seeing who finishes first in this case,” he said. “In this day and age, there are few true scoops … On an event like this, take a breath.”

CBS’ Jan Crawford made the right call while reading it on the air. NBC’s Pete Williams said that “the bottom line here is the Supreme Court has upheld the health care law.”

The news media’s scrambling quickly became fodder for humor online.Damon Lindelof, co-creator of the television show “Lost,” tweeted that “I am not turning off CNN until they TELL ME GORE WON FLORIDA!”

The Web site Gawker posted a photoshopped picture of a smiling Obama holding a tablet with CNN’s website headlined “Mandate struck down,” in a
pose reminiscent of the famous photo of President Truman holding up a newspaper with the incorrect “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline.

Statement from Governor Martin O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown

“President Obama and Congress chose to pass the Affordable Care Act because the status quo was hurting our ability to create jobs, expand opportunity, and protect the health of our children and parents.

“In upholding the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Supreme Court chose to protect the lives of millions of Marylanders and millions of Americans. American businesses will be more competitive in the global economy with lower health care costs and a healthier workforce. Parents will be able to keep their children on their health care plans until age 26. Seniors will avoid the Medicare Donut Hole. And by 2014, no American will be denied health care coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
“Today’s decision gives considerable momentum to our health care reform efforts here in Maryland. What it does not – and indeed must not – do, is give us license to take our eye off the ball or slow our progress. Moms, dads, and kids throughout Maryland are counting on their elected leaders to continue the mission of lowering costs, and improving the quality of care.

“We remain as committed as ever to moving forward on behalf of our families. We must move forward, not back.”

Statement from Maryland Hosue Republican Leadership

“Obviously, the Supreme Court’s ruling is disappointing”, said House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell. “But, it is important to remember the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate as a tax – something that President Obama has repeatedly denied. Today is the day when work to repeal this tax begins in earnest.”

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the ACA’s individual mandate that Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional based on Congress’ authority to tax. The court also ruled that the federal government cannot compel states to expand their Medicaid programs by withholding funds.

“The cost of ACA is staggering”, said House Minority Whip Jeannie HaddawayRiccio. “It is not just limited to the federal government either; state budgets could take a massive hit. The one bright spot in this ruling is that states cannot be forced to expand their Medicaid programs. Of course, with Governor O’Malley’s rush to be one of the first states to enact Obamacare, Maryland’s budget may not benefit from this ruling.”

Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the ACA will increase the federal debt by over $500 billion in ten years. When the federal government starts to reduce their share of the subsidies in 2019, Maryland’s alreadystrained budget will explode.

“In the worst economy in 80 years, with thousands of people out of work, the costs of this bill will mean higher taxes for everyone”, said O’Donnell.

“With the burden this will put on our state and federal budgets, you will pay higher taxes even if you buy health insurance. Our citizens’ only hope now is for a change in the White House this fall so this tax can be repealed.”

Last modified: July 11, 2012