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Update: Gov. Gregoire, AG McKenna, Others Weigh in on Health Care Ruling

Elected officials and political voices from across the state, from Governor Christine Gregoire to Republican Party Chair Kirby Wilbur, quickly issued press releases following the Supreme Court decision to up hold the 2009 Affordable Care Act.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court handed down their  (or "Obamacare," as some call it), upholding the law.

Local elected leaders rushed to weigh in on health care ruling:

Gov. Chris Gregore (D):

"I applaud today's Supreme Court decision. Since the Affordable Care Act was signed by the President, we have worked tirelessly to implement it in our state, with my firm belief that it was constitutional and would ultimately withstand legal challenge. I'm extremely pleased that the majority of the Court agreed on the merits of the law highlighted in the briefs that I and others submitted on its behalf.
 
"The real winners today, however, are the millions of Americans and Washingtonians who have and will now continue to benefit from this Act. Among them are more than 50,000 young adults in our state who have gained insurance coverage through their parents' plan, our more than 60,000 seniors who've annually received assistance to purchase needed prescription drugs, and the millions here that are no longer subject to unfair practices by insurance companies. And with this cloud of legal uncertainty removed, I look forward to the day not long from now when more than 800,000 people in our state will be able to use our Health Benefit Exchange to get the health insurance that they need but currently must go without.

"This is a historic decision that will allow Washington to continue as a leader in providing access to quality, affordable health care to its residents. I am excited for what this means, and thank and congratulate the President and all those responsible for their foresight and perseverance in getting us to this day."

Attorney General Rob McKenna (R):

"Our system of government provides a series of checks and balances, allowing new laws-especially ones that raise major constitutional questions-to be tested in court," said Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna. "While we're disappointed that this close decision did not find in the states' favor with regard to the individual mandate, the country benefits from a thoughtful debate about the reach of federal power into the legal rights of the states and the personal financial decisions of all Americans."

A majority of the Court also agreed with states' argument that the federal government may not take away existing Medicaid funds from states that choose not to participate in the expansion of the Medicaid program.

"Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the ACA to expand the availability of health care, and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use," the Court wrote. "What Congress is not free to do is to penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding."

"Now the federal government must treat the states as equal partners, as both seek to provide health coverage for the poor," said McKenna.

State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler:

"I'm very pleased the Supreme Court chose to uphold the Affordable Care Act," said Kreidler. "We've been busy for two years now implementing the reforms and have made great progress, but there's a lot left to do before 2014. With the court decision out of the way, we can continue our focus on where it should be - bringing relief to families struggling to find quality, affordable health insurance."

The millions of Washington state consumers benefitting from the Affordable Care Act's early reforms include:

·         More than 2.4 million people who no longer face lifetime caps on their health benefits.

·         More than 52,000 young adults up to age 26 who have stayed on their parents' health plans.

·         More than 1.2 million people who now have coverage for preventive care with no co-pays or deductibles.

·         More than 60,000 people in Medicare who have saved hundreds on their prescription drugs.

Washington state also leveraged millions in federal funds available under the Affordable Care Act to create:

·         Public access to health insurance rate requests.

·         A new marketplace in Washington state for health insurance in 2014 - called an exchange - where people can shop for health plans, compare their options and apply for subsidies.

·         A temporary health insurance program (PCIP-WA) for people with pre-existing health conditions.

"The Affordable Care Act is not perfect, but it moves us in the right direction and is the only meaningful reform that's passed in decades," said Kreidler. "The debate was clearly contentious, and I'm grateful to have it behind us. But, now it's time to focus on the work ahead - more than a million uninsured people in our state are counting on us."

US Sen. Patty Murray (D):

"This is a victory for the health care security and stability of Washington families. Today's ruling means that families and small business owners will continue to benefit from better access, more choices, and a health care system that no longer works only for those who can afford it. It means that health care decisions will be in the hands of patients and their doctors, and that insurance companies will be forced to compete for the business of Washington state families.

"It is also welcome news for all those across our state who are already benefitting from this law.  It means that over 62,000 young adults in Washington will be allowed to keep their health coverage, that tens of thousands of Washington seniors will continue to receive checks for Medicare support, that hundreds of thousands of patients will continue to access free preventative services like mammograms and colonoscopies, and that millions of policy holders will continue to see the value of their premium dollar improve. 

"This decision offers a chance for those on all sides in this long and impassioned debate to begin the process of moving forward. It is time for us to come together to find common ground. As this bill continues to be implemented, there is no reason why we can't all work together to fix what's not working and take advantage of what is.

"This law is the product of the stories and struggles of millions of Americans, including countless Washington state families that shared their stories with me. Over the last three years I have heard from young people who couldn't find affordable coverage, seniors facing the Medicare donut hole, and everyday Washingtonians who were suddenly faced with catastrophic illnesses. 

"Today, with this ruling, my hope is that they have been provided peace of mind knowing that the change they fought for has not been defeated."

Congressman Adam Smith (D, WA-09):

"I’m pleased the Supreme Court has upheld the Patient Care and Affordable Health Care Act.  This law is the best available step forward for our health care system that is in dire need of reform.

"The Affordable Care Act will help nearly 30 million uninsured Americans obtain health insurance and will cut our deficit by more than $1 trillion in the long-term with mechanisms in place to curb fraudulent and wasteful medical spending.  It gives Americans the promise of better care by keeping health care and insurance providers accountable for the well being of their patients. The law has also established free preventative care and has empowered states to create new and more efficient methods to deliver the highest quality options for health care. 

"The problems with our current health care system will not disappear, and if we do not continue to make decisions in the best interest of all Americans, it will only get worse. I am disappointed that attorney generals across this country including Robert McKenna, decided to waste precious state dollars to fight expanding access to affordable and quality health care for all Americans instead of working to improve our broken health insurance system. Instead of challenging parts of the law that will only move us closer to ensuring all Americans have the health care they need, we should strengthen the provisions that increase efficiencies and decrease costs, and modify sections that would be most burdensome to Americans.

"Maintaining our antiquated, inefficient health care system that has drained our economy and leaves millions without health care is no longer an option. Congress must now work to continue finding ways to improve our health care system by putting the health and well being of Americans first. "

Washington State Republican Party Chairman Kirby Wilbur:

“This morning’s verdict by the Supreme Court finally defines this legislation as exactly what it is: a tax on the middle class. When President Obama was trying to sell his ill-conceived legislation he ‘rejected the notion’ that it was a tax; today the Supreme Court told him that he could not deceive the American public with his rhetoric any longer.

“I think it is important to highlight the distinction made by Justice Roberts in his final determination. He declared that this mandate was not constitutional under the interstate commerce clause or the necessary and proper clause. It was only deemed constitutional as a tax – the very word the President has rejected repeatedly in his pitch to the public. But spinning the story won’t change the facts, Mr. President.  Today’s decision sets the new precedent of a federal tax to compel behavior. It is an ominous one, and serves as a very slippery slope for our country.

“This law is unusual in that opposition to it has grown since its passage. The majority of Americans still oppose major portions of this act and I doubt the Court’s decision will alter that. Though the mandate was deemed a tax by the Supreme Court, and therefore constitutional, it is not now, nor has it ever been, good policy for our country. Today’s decision will mobilize our base around a greater than ever urgency to elect Mitt Romney in November, and a majority of Republicans to the House and Senate, as we work towards untangling this mess and regaining our liberties.”

King County Executive Dow Constantine (D):

“I celebrate the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act. A stable, healthier future has been made possible by this ruling. This is affirmation of our nation-wide bold move toward achieving quality affordable healthcare, and we are moving in the right direction. And for the nearly quarter of a million people in King County who do not have health insurance this is truly a welcome life-and-death decision.

I would like to extend my thanks to the members of our Washington State congressional delegation who championed the Affordable Care Act. They should be proud of their work on this historic legislation.

Even as today’s ruling upholds the Affordable Care Act, we are not going to rest on our laurels and turn away from efforts to reach those in need; we will continue to make the healthcare system more efficient. We owe it to our residents to keep searching for solutions to the healthcare issues that affect both their money and their health.”

King County Councilmember and Board of Health Chair Joe McDermott (District 8):

“I’m relieved that the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act and that the political pandering of many state attorneys general from  across the Country proved futile.

“No complex law is perfect, but the Affordable Care Act is a significant step toward a more perfect union. The law is vital as we work to provide more affordable health care for all Americans.

“I urge Congress to protect the law’s Prevention & Public Health Fund to support our efforts in driving down the costs of health care.

“Today’s ruling clears the way for nearly a quarter of a million people in King County who do not have health insurance to finally have affordable options in 2014.

“I look forward to continued work in monitoring and supporting the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.”

Metropolitan King County Councilmember Bob Ferguson (District 1):

“The Supreme Court’s validation of the Affordable Care Act is a victory for the health and well-being of all King County and Washington residents. 

“With today’s decision, millions of Americans have the peace of mind knowing they will benefit from the law’s reforms, including access to more affordable prescription medication for seniors. Moreover, insurance companies can’t deny coverage for pre-existing conditions or impose lifetime limits on health benefits.

“Roughly one million Washington residents are uninsured, and the court’s favorable ruling is critical to moving forward with reforms that will bring us closer to ensuring all Americans have access to affordable health care.”

The King County Council passed a motion in 2010 acknowledging the benefits of health care reform and supporting implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

In 2010, Ferguson wrote a letter to the State Attorney General questioning the legal merit of joining the federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Over 100 attorneys joined the letter asking the Attorney General to reconsider his decision.

Mercer Island Patch will add to this section as we receive information.

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