Court ruling continues Minnesota health-care divide
ST. PAUL -- The first Minnesota reaction to today's U.S. Supreme Court health care act ruling came from the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party chairman, who used it to seek donations.
"Victory" is how DFL leader Ken Martin headlined an email to party members seeking contributions to protect the law that Republicans dub "Obamacare."
Martin and Republican Party leaders were among the first to react, with both sides asking for money to continue the fight.
On a 5-4 vote, the court upheld the entire Affordable Care Act, as it is officially known.
Ironically, it was Republican-supported Chief Justice John Roberts who cast the deciding vote to uphold Democrat Obama's plan. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Barack Obama voted against Roberts' confirmation when they were in the Senate.
Representatives of the organization who brought the lawsuit against the health law were devastated.
"This is very disappointing, and based on the decision, the federal government can now regulate individuals simply for existing," said Mike Hickey, Minnesota National Federation of Independent Business director.
Key to the federal law, enacted two years ago, is a provision requiring most Americans to carry health insurance. But Hickey said many provisions will affect businesses, especially small ones.
The federal act, for instance, requires employers with up to the equivalent of 50 workers to provide insurance or pay a $2,000 penalty per employee.
"It could be a disincentive to grow," Hickey said about businesses approaching 50 employees.
Calling the ruling, and the law itself, "pretty sweeping," Hickey said most businesses have not seen much impact so far. Most of the law begins in 2014.
"There are all kinds of restrictions on health insurance," he said, and his organization thinks several provisions will add to business costs.
"Who knows if a business will actually close," Hickey said because most businesses are not clear about the law's impact. "This law is such a web, we need to see how things play out."
Hickey said the ruling could convince businesses to donate to Republicans, who pledge to repeal the health-care act.
Political reaction broke along predictable political lines.
"The Supreme Court did not bend to political pressure from the right -- they did what was right," Martin wrote in seeking DFL donations.
Martin said Minnesotans owe justices their thanks, but also need to keep Democrats in office to preserve the health law.
"Let's come together and say thanks by standing with them in November," Martin said.
Minutes later, Minnesota Republican leaders sent their own email seeking donations, with the simple message: "The Supreme Court has upheld Obamacare, and there's a lot of work for us to do in order to ensure that Obamacare is repealed."
State Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said the federal law has many benefits, "most notably for adults and children who currently cannot purchase insurance because they have a pre-existing condition. The Affordable Care Act fixes this policy, making it possible for all to purchase insurance to keep them and their families healthy."
Huntley, the state House's leading health care finance Democrat, said one of the impacts already has been allowing 32,000 young Minnesotans to remain on their parents' health insurance until they are 26 years old.
"For consumers purchasing insurance, they'll no longer have to worry about lifetime caps on coverage," Huntley said. "And for individuals and small businesses looking to purchase insurance, they will have an effective, user-friendly tool in finding the best, most cost effective coverage through the implementation of a Health Insurance Market Exchange."
Former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, a conservative Republican Minnesota congresswoman, was the first Minnesota politician to opine on the ruling and to no one's surprise said she would fight to repeal the health act.
"I am deeply disappointed by the court's decision," Bachmann said moments after the ruling was released. "Today's Supreme Court decision raises the stakes for the coming months. Since Congress passed Obamacare in 2010, I have made its repeal my top priority."
Bachmann reminded Minnesotans that she brought thousands of Americans to Washington to speak against its passage and was the first to introduce a bill to repeal it.
"Now, the only way to save the country from Obamacare's budget-busting government takeover of health care is to completely repeal it," she said.
On CNN, Bachmann called the decision "a turning point in American history. We will never be the same again."
Bachmann, chairwoman of the House Tea Party Caucus, was in the courtroom as the opinion was read. A commentator in the courtroom said "you could see her astonishment."
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., was quick to release a statement praising the court action.
"Two years ago, I was proud to vote in support of the Affordable Care Act," she said. "Today's historic Supreme Court decision affirms President Obama's leadership to extend healthcare coverage to millions of Americans.
"It is now time for Republicans in Congress to end their vitriolic repeal campaign and work on effectively implementing this law to the benefit of the American people."
U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., was typical of Republicans, calling the ruling "a devastating blow."
He said the action means "there is no reasonable limit on federal power."
Former U.S. Rep. Vin Weber of Minnesota, a Mitt Romney presidential campaign advisor, said the decision should send Americans one message: "We now know this is the new law unless we elect a new president."
The Dayton administration released a statement saying it is pleased with the court action and will improve health care while lowering its cost. Unlike Hickey, Dayton commissioners said insurance will be more affordable for small businesses.
The Obama administration said Minnesotans will receive $9 million in rebates from insurance companies this year under the new law.
The law requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical care, and those that do not meet that figure must provide rebates.