How will health care law affect Ohioans?

Reactions vary to Supreme Court decision

By MARC KOVAC Dix Capital Bureau Published:

COLUMBUS -- Ohio Democrats and others supporters of the federal Affordable Health Care Act called Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court decision "a bright day for democracy," "a victory for all Ohioans" and "the greatest advancement for women's health in a generation."

Ohio Republicans and other opponents called the 5-4 ruling upholding what many consider the cornerstone of President Barack Obama's presidency "a massive new tax on the middle class" and "bad policy and bad medicine" that will "create significant long-term difficulties for the state."

But still unknown is how the decision will ultimately affect Ohioans, with questions remaining about what, if anything, lawmakers and Gov. John Kasich will do to implement the federal mandate.

"The administration will carefully analyze the decision to determine the appropriate next steps," Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor said in a joint statement. "We are very concerned that a sudden, dramatic increase in Medicaid spending could threaten Ohio's ability to pursue needed reforms in other areas, such as education."

They added, "Going forward, we remain committed to minimizing the law's drag on the economic growth Ohio is beginning to experience, protecting the inviolate relationship between doctors and patients, and preserving as much free market competition in health care as possible."

High Praise

Supporters of what is commonly referred to as Obamacare said the Supreme Court decision will ensure all Ohioans have access to health care and affordable benefits for those with pre-existing medical conditions.

"This is a victory for Americans including many Ohioans who struggle with paying rising healthcare costs," Ohio Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney, a Democrat from Cincinnati, said in a released statement.

Statehouse Democrats also urged Kasich and the Republican leaders of the Ohio House and Senate to move legislation implementing the federal law in Ohio, including the establishment of health benefit exchanges.

"They should stop dragging their feet and expeditiously and responsibly put in place the proper health insurance market place for the people of Ohio, before the deadline," House Minority Leader Armond Budish, a Democrat from the Cleveland area, said in a released statement. "Creating a Health Exchange will allow all Ohioans to obtain affordable health care coverage even if they have pre-existing conditions."

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern added, " ... I hope this will motivate Gov. Kasich to comply with the law, and finally set up the state health care exchange that he's obstructed since he took office so Ohioans can purchase coverage at affordable rates to stay healthy."

Tax Hike

Attorney General Mike DeWine offered one silver lining from Thursday's ruling: The Supreme Court backed the states' stance concerning the federal Commerce Clause, effectively limiting what federal officials can impose on states.

"If that would have been upheld, it would mean there are no limits to what Congress could compel Americans to purchase," he said. "...While we lost the battle over Obamacare, we did win the war on the true meaning of the Commerce Clause."

But Republicans also quickly shifted their narrative, saying the federal health care law amounted to a massive tax hike that would further hamper economic growth.

State Sen. Larry Obhof, a Republican from Medina County and an attorney who was involved in the state of Florida's filing against Obamacare, said there was "real cause for concern" over increases in the state's Medicaid rolls.

"We're looking at potentially a 50 percent increase in the number of people on Medicaid, which would be an additional 1.1 million persons between now and 2018," Obhof said. "That would impose a significant strain on the state's budget to the tune of billions of dollars. And actually in the next biennium, we're looking at somewhere between $750 to $950 million just over those two years."

Opponents vowed to use the high court ruling to propel Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney into the White House.

"Our only recourse is through the election process, which is why our movement is committed to winning the presidential race and senate races in Ohio," Tom Zawistowski, president of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, said in a released statement.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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