Locals sound off on U.S. Supreme Court's decision upholding constitutionality of national healthcare law

By Jon Campisi | Jul 9, 2012

Reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent historic decision upholding the

constitutionality of President Obama’s healthcare overhaul has been varied to say the least.

Both nationally and locally, everyone from politicians to business leaders to general members of the public have expressed thoughts on the decision to allow the entire healthcare reform law, specifically, the mandate forcing the purchase of insurance by private citizens, to stand.

On the national stage, some Republican elected officials have vowed to take legislative action to prevent the law’s implementation despite the court’s decision; GOP leaders have announced that the repeal effort will soon be underway.

Here at home, reaction to the high court’s decision has also been varied.

Organizations representing commonwealth business interests seem to have taken a stance against the president’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare” by opponents of the legislation, which forces individuals to buy health insurance by 2014 or face an IRS penalty.

In a statement released June 28, the same day the Supreme Court upheld the law’s constitutionality in a 5-4 vote, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry decried the move, saying allowing the healthcare law to stand as written will likely hurt those it represents.

Since first proposed by the Obama administration, the PA Chamber has expressed concerns with the law because it imposes what the organization calls job-killing mandates and penalties on businesses, increases taxes and burdens on small businesses, creates new plan requirements that will increase costs, and ultimately will do little to control the long-term spiraling of health-care costs,” the statement reads.

The organization’s president, Gene Barr, said in his own statement that while he agrees “meaningful” healthcare reform was, and still is, necessary, the Supreme Court got it wrong in that it ruled to uphold a law “that will not bend the cost curve on health-care spending, nor will it promote greater quality and value in the nation’s health system.”

Barr went on to say that the law would stunt economic growth since it creates what he calls a disincentive for small businesses to add to their workforce.

Under the law, businesses with the equivalent of 50 or more employees are subject to what Barr said are the “costly provisions” of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“The law will force some employers to think twice about adding a few more employees,” Barr said. “That’s counterproductive to what our economy needs.”

Barr stated that while the law apparently passed constitutional muster, it’s not what he would refer to as a fiscally responsible piece of legislation.

The court’s decision also does not mean the law is consumer-friendly, he asserted.

And lastly, according to Barr, the court decision does not say that the law will work to reduce healthcare costs: “it won’t.”

The disappointment in the court decision was shared by local members of Congress, including Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick of southeastern Pennsylvania.

Shortly after the high court’s ruling, Fitzpatrick circulated a letter via email denouncing the decision, and saying that he and others will do everything in their power to ensure that the law is repealed.

“I oppose universal healthcare and will do everything I can to stop it,” Fitzpatrick states in his letter. “You have my promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act while fighting to keep the provisions we know are good policy.”

The letter also takes on a campaign tone, with Fitzpatrick accusing liberal members of Congress of attempting to capitalize on the recent court decision to win at the ballot box.

“My opposition to government-run healthcare and the largest tax increase on middle income families in American history has drawn the attention of the left,” Fitzpatrick says in his letter. “The Liberals and their extreme left-wing friends are going ‘all-in’ here in Pennsylvania to defeat me.”

Others are keeping a tight lid on their feelings in the aftermath of the healthcare decision.

The Pennsylvania Record contacted the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce to see how leaders felt about the law’s effect on those it represents.

But a spokeswoman said they would have no comment, explaining that the organization doesn’t typically weigh in on issues of national significance; it usually reserves comment for specifically local issues.

And some lawyers in the region, even those who represent corporate interests, are still grappling with how to address the issue.

Bret Goldstein, a civil defense attorney who practices with Philadelphia-based Reger, Rizzo & Darnall, said while he doesn’t consider himself expert enough to offer a “sound opinion” on the healthcare ruling, he did say that from what he understands, Massachusetts, which operates under a similar healthcare system as that unfolding at the federal level, “seems to fare pretty well.”

On a personal level, what Goldstein finds most interesting, he said, is that when he discusses the healthcare issue with European friends, the perception is what differs.

“They consider healthcare a right and a service that should be provided by the government,” he wrote in an emailed message. “With Americans the issue is much more sticky. Americans simply don’t like to be told what to do and have an inherent distrust of governance.”

In this sense, Goldstein wrote, the high court’s ruling can be viewed by some to be un-American.

“Remember, this country fought a revolution simply because its founders did not want to be told what to do,” he wrote.

But for now, at least on the healthcare front, it appears they will be, lest they be subject to a penalty, or as the Supreme Court calls it, a “tax.”

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