In a landmark ruling still being scrutinized by analysts, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling on the Affordable Care Act this morning, largely letting it stand. According to The New York Times, " the decision was a striking victory for President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats."
The majority of the court, including its Chief Justice John Roberts, affirmed "the central legislative pillar of Obama's term," according to the Times. The high court upheld the ACA's individual mandate in a 5-4 decision, conceding that the mandate was a tax despite the Obama administration's reluctance to describe it that way during the bill's passage in 2010.
However, the Supreme Court did restrict one major portion of the law: an expansion of Medicaid. The ruling now allows states the flexibility not to expand their Mediciad programs, without paying the same financial penalties that the law initially called for.
"I'm disappointed with that," Dr. Greg Thompson, a Boise physician told Citydesk this morning."That expansion would have help to insure 16 to 17 million more Americans. Unfortunately, by 2019, we may still have as many as 42 million Americans still uninsured."
Thompson said he knows quite a bit about the uninsured. As a physician in the St. Luke's Healthcare System, he estimated that more than 80 percent of his patients accessed Medicaid or Medicare. Thompson said he treats everyone from "presidents of corporations to the homeless."
Idaho joined 25 other states in suing the federal government over the law, arguing that the individual mandate, which requires people to buy health insurance or face a fine starting in 2014, was unconstitutional. But the high court's majority maintained that the mandate was indeed constitutional.
"I must say that I am still happy about a number of elements of the Affordable Care Act that will still be intact, starting with wellness exams," said Thompson. "The ACA pays for wellness exams for our Medicare population and that is huge. Plus, we'll still be allowing young adults, up to the age of 26, to remain on their parents' insurance, and also the court upheld the rule that keeps insurance carriers from rejecting coverage on pre-existing conditions."
Thompson said insurance carriers remain the big winners.
"Administration and profit among insurance companies still totals $350 billion. If you think of it, that would pay for insurance coverage for everyone," he said.
Thompson, co-chair of Idaho Health Care For All, the local chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, will be sponsoring a ripped-from-the-headlines event on the evening of Wednesday, July 18, when Dr. Jim Girvan, professor emeritus at Boise State, will address today's SCOTUS ruling. The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Boise's Main Public Library.