Reflecting the liberal-conservative split evident in the Supreme Court's historic health care ruling Thursday, local Democrats applauded the decision while Republicans chided it.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the "individual mandate," the centerpiece of the Affordable Health Care Act that President Barack Obama signed into law last year.
Five of the nine justices agreed that the key to the act—the requirement that people either buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty—is a kind of tax, which Congress is allowed to impose using its taxing power, according to the Bloomberg News-operated SCOTUSblog.
In a joint statement issued with fellow Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) applauded the court's decision.
“This ruling is a significant victory for the American people," the statement read. "After a two-year legal battle, the Supreme Court confirmed today that the Affordable Care Act will continue to provide millions of Americans with health coverage."
Democrats in Senate District 46 echoed Ellison's sentiment. Sen. Ron Latz praised the decision for allowing the law to provide greater access to insurance—ticking off key items in the bill, such as the provision that lets young adults stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26 and the ban on turning people down for preexisting conditions.
“I believe that the policy is a good policy for our constituents,” he said, adding that it’s a “pro-business decision” that will save businesses money, reduce absenteeism and increase productivity.
Latz said it’s not yet clear how it’ll affect the state budget, although he said he expects the impact to be minor since Minnesota already has a robust system to care for its residents.
Still, he expects a debate next year as legislators discuss whether Minnesota should run its own health insurance exchange.
“That’ll be a battle. I fully expect that’ll be a political battle at the state Capitol,” he said.
Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-46B) said he thinks both sides can be happy with parts of the ruling.
"From my perspective, the ruling gave something of value to both sides of the ideological spectrum," he said in an email. "For progressives, the ruling upheld the ACA—including the law's cornerstone provision. For conservatives, the ruling placed meaningful limits on the reach of the Commerce Clause."
However, Simon said because most people are in the middle—and not fiercely partisan one way or another on the issue—he believes the result is mixed.
"The benefits of the law survive (such as guaranteeing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and extending a child's health care coverage to age 25). Of course, the burdens survive as well," he said. "In the end, the Court basically decided that the debate about the ACA is one that belongs in the legislative and political arenas, not in the courts."
Local Republicans weren't as reserved.
"The ruling that the Affordable Care Act is a tax is damaging to personal choice because it will open the floodgates to a plethora of new taxes and new laws," said Chris Fields, Republican challenger to Ellison in Minnesota's 5th Congressional District, in a . "We used to aspire to having more freedom and more liberty. Now we have a ruling class in this country that believes it is their sworn duty to protect us from the decisions we make for ourselves."
David Arvidson, the Republican challenger to Simon, said he wasn't happy with the ruling. Arvidson is a libertarian-leaning Republican who thinks health care reform should be left to the states. He’s also upset that the court declared the individual mandate a tax, even though Congress originally called the payments for those who don’t have insurance a penalty.
“It’s put everybody in kind of a frustrating situation,” he said of the ruling.
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