The U.S. Supreme Court finally settled the question of whether the federal health care law is constitutional, including the individual mandate. It is. But the politics of the controversial law are far from settled, and sure to motivate voters in the coming elections and spur pushback in Washington, D.C., and Topeka.
The 5-4 ruling confirms that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback miscalculated in giving back a $31.5 million federal grant last year meant to help the state set up a health insurance exchange (which was a Republican idea, by the way). Now – unless the GOP succeeds in winning the White House and enough seats in the Senate as well as the House to repeal the law – the state likely will have to rely on a federally run exchange, which may not best serve Kansas.
The Legislature surely will see more efforts to fight the law, especially by taking advantage of the high court’s green light for states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion without losing existing federal funding.
Continuing attempts to overturn the law in Washington and undermine it in Topeka will please a certain GOP base of voters. What’s harder to know is how that approach will be received by people newly insured because of the law. As it is, children can no longer be denied insurance coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions (something that will apply to adults as well in 2014), young adults can stay on their parents’ policies until they’re 26, and senior citizens have received rebates and discounts for prescription drugs.
In a statement Thursday, Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger said she sees the law as a first step: “The law will be refined as we go forward, just as many laws are, but it establishes as public policy the importance of everyone in this country having access to affordable health care.… Now we have to find ways to bring costs under control.”
“Obamacare” exemplified the worst kind of lawmaking in its 2010 passage – which lacked the bipartisanship, public buy-in and transparency essential for such a major issue. It is turning into a costly burden for businesses. And the administration overreached on the contraception mandates relating to religious institutions.
But the law was trying to solve a real and still-pressing problem. Longtime advocates of health care reform, including The Eagle editorial board, can hope that as leaders in Kansas and nationwide react to the court’s decision and decide what happens next, they won’t forget the special-interest group whose plight started this all.
That would be the 44 million people, including 350,000 in Kansas, who are uninsured and, in some cases, uninsurable.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman