The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as Obamacare, was not gutted by the nation's highest court Thursday when the Supreme Court ruled that the 2010 legislation's linchpin - the individual mandate - was not unconstitutional.
Though confusion abounded soon after the Supreme Court's decision regarding health care reform, with some outlets initially reporting that the key part of Obamacare has been overturned, all media are now reporting that the law has been upheld.
Gov. Nikki Haley said despite the Supreme Court's stance, "what was bad policy yesterday is bad policy today." See the rest of her comments on the decision in the attached video.
Health care expert Mark Tompkins, who is director of the University of South Carolina's Master of Public Administration Program, said the decision will simultaneously help patients and put pressure on hospitals across the nation.
"For consumers, it means that more people will be brought into the health insurance system," Tompkins said. "Fewer people getting uncompensated care, more people getting timely care instead of going to the emergency room."
"For hospitals, it increases the pressure on them to join into integrated health services delivery systems," Tompkins added. "It should reduce the amount of uncompensated care that public hospitals are expected to deliver."
The bill, which Democrats argued would lower overall health care costs as well as provide more expansive life-saving coverage for more Americans, was passed by the U.S. Senate in late 2009, and was ultimately passed by a slim 219–212 the following March in the U.S. House of Representatives.
and questioned what further government control it could lead to.
"The question every American should now be asking themselves is what's next? Can Congress 'tax' you for not exercising enough since that impacts the cost of healthcare? Can Congress 'tax' you for eating certain foods or offer 'tax' breaks for avoiding certain foods? Can Congress 'tax' you because you only walk on the treadmill and don't run? Are there any limits to the power of the federal government?”
“Our forefathers would not recognize the modern day interpretation of the document they wrote and ratified,” he added.
Eric Graben, president of the Greenville County Democratic Party applauded the decision, but said the battle to ensure affordable care isn't over.
"I am certainly pleased to see that the Supreme Court generally upheld the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, particularly since the majority opinion was authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by former President George W. Bush. It will take a while to digest the 193 pages of majority opinion, concurrences and dissents to assess the full impact of the Court's ruling," Graben said.
"The question now is whether America as a nation has the political will to continue to do what it takes to one, make sure all of our fellow Americans have health insurance - the capitalist method of financing medical care - and two, make sure everyone pays what they are able to pay for their own healthcare by maintaining the individual mandate," he added.
Graben said Obamacare addressed the critical issue of health care by turning to a blend of capitalism, personal responsibility and charity
"Medical care is financed primarily through the private insurance industry. Americans are generally required to take personal responsibility for financing their own healthcare to the extent they are able by purchasing insurance - the responsible way to pay for healthcare in a capitalist economic system," Graben said.
South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian echoed much of what Graben said in a statement emailed to party members Thursday.
"Even Justice John Roberts agrees the law is constitutional," Harpootlian wrote. "This is a huge day for the President and the people of this country. Americans will now have the opportunity to live a longer, healthier life with a less expensive health care system."
He also called on Democrats to step up efforts to get Pres. Obama re-elected, calling the Supreme Court decision "a huge victory for not just Democrats but for all Americans."
"It is now time to work even harder for the President and get him reelected in November," Harpootlian wrote. "He has only begun the fight to turn this country around from the Republican system that benefits the few to an America in which all of have a chance to grow and prosper."
Sen. Lindsey Graham blasted the health care reform's status as a tax, as the Supreme Court confirmed the individual mandate's status as a tax, though the president has denied that stance all along. Graham said the issue is by no means over.
“Now Congress has a chance to Repeal and Replace Obamacare, one of the largest tax increases on the American people, with common-sense health care reform we can afford," Graham said. "I am glad I voted against one of the largest tax increases on the American people in modern history for the purpose of creating government-controlled health care."
Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said there are "common sense, free-market ideas" that should replace the healthcare reform law.
"I hope every American takes this opportunity to stand up and voice their opposition to this monstrosity, and I will be standing right there with them," Scott said. "This isn't the end of our opposition; this is a new beginning."
Meanwhile healthcare insurers like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina which have been putting in place measures required by the PPACA since its passage in 2010 still have some reservations about the effectiveness of the law, according to a statement released by BCBSSC President and CEO David Pankau.
"We recognize that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and we have adhered to the law even as its constitutionality has been debated. We continue to move forward in operationalizing our organization so that we can implement its requirements in a timely manner.
"However, prior to its passage in March 2010, we have consistently expressed our concern that the law does not address underlying root causes of rising health care cost, which affects our nation’s ability to be competitive in a global economy, stymies the enterprise of small business owners, and restricts the very access to care supported by this legislation.
"Our long-term focus remains as it was prior to the creation of national health care reform—working locally to find innovative and collaborative solutions to improve the delivery of quality health care and thus, mitigate rising health care expense.”
Brent Nelsen, a political science professor at Furman University in Greenville, said the surprise wasn't just the decision itself, but how it was reached.
"I have to say, I'm really surprised. First, the fact that Roberts was the swing vote and not Kennedy is a surprise. Second, the fact that the whole law was upheld was a surprise. I really thought some part of it would be struck down," Nelsen said.
Nelsen called the decision a "clear win for Obama and the Democrats," adding that the Republicans have their work cut out for them if they are to repeal the bill - which would require electing Republican Mitt Romney and a Republican U.S. Senate.
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders continue to celebrate the decision. In a note to members, Charleston County Democratic Party Chairman Richard Hricik praised the court's decision and seized the opportunity to rally his party for November's election.
"This is not just a victory for the President and Democrats, but for the American people," Hricik wrote. "Democrats and President Obama cared enough about people to pass a law that ensures that everyone, all Americans, will have access to affordable medical care. Working to elect Democrats and to re-elect the President does bring about change you can believe in. Now let's get to work."
Sen. Jim DeMint predictably denounced the bill and the decision upholding it, calling for governors to openly act against it.
“I urge every governor to stop implementing the health care exchanges that would help implement the harmful effects of this misguided law. Americans have loudly rejected this federal takeover of health care, and governors should join with the people and reject its implementation.”
Stay for further reaction from South Carolina health care and insurance professionals, as well as elected officials.