Maine reacts to Supreme Court health care ruling

Nancy Cummings darted between her patients and her computer Thursday morning, waiting on word from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Maine's Congressional delegation reacts to Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling

Excepts taken from prepared statements

U.S. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe:

“Regrettably, today’s Supreme Court decision was a victory for a massive legislative overreach, broad and expansive government, and its power to tax — and in this instance, to impose an onerous new tax for Americans on a product which the health care law now requires them to purchase, regardless of cost of the plans which has yet to be determined.

"We still don’t even have answers to the most basic questions about the plans under this law such as what the premiums, co-payments, and deductibles will cost — questions I had specifically requested from the Congressional Budget Office, but that were never provided. Shouldn’t we know if it’s affordable?"

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins:

"A clean decision by the Court to overturn this law would have paved the way for Congress to start over in a bipartisan fashion, as we should have from the start, to draft a health care bill that achieves the consensus goals of improving access and quality, providing more choice, containing health care costs, and making health care coverage more affordable for all Americans.

"I also am particularly concerned about the impact that this law will have on Maine's small businesses, which are our state's job creation engine. The law discourages small businesses from hiring new employees and paying them more. It could also lead to onerous financial penalties, even for those small businesses that are struggling to provide health insurance for their employees. Even where the law tries to help small businesses, it misses the mark."

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud:

“I am pleased that the Supreme Court’s ruling has provided the certainty Congress and the American people need on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. While I have always said it is not a perfect law, the Affordable Care Act is a huge step forward in providing affordable access to health care for Mainers.

Now that this decision is behind us, I hope we can roll up our sleeves and concentrate on rebuilding our economy and putting Mainers back to work.”

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree:

“The Court made the right decision in preserving the basic consumer protections in the health care reform law — like letting young people stay on their parents’ policies or preventing insurance companies from canceling your coverage when you get sick. The court did the right thing by ruling in favor of consumers instead of siding with the big insurance companies.”

Just after 10 a.m. a friend texted her.

Upheld.

"For the average Mainer, it's a victory," said Cummings, an orthopedic surgeon at Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington and president of the Maine Medical Association.

In a much-anticipated, much-speculated 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld much of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its requirement that every American have insurance or pay a price.

Maine Attorney General William Schneider, one of 26 attorneys general who sued to stop it, found pockets of victory in the results: The court's majority ruled that Congress couldn't compel Americans to buy health insurance under the Commerce Clause but that the penalty for not having insurance amounted to a tax, which is allowed. It also took away the federal government's ability to threaten existing Medicaid, (MaineCare) funds if a state opted not to expand its program and accept new ACA money.

"I think the average Mainer can feel good about it, that the federal government is a government of limited powers, that the government can't step in and push Maine around as they were trying to do," Schneider said.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage called it "a sad day."

As news spread and people worked through the 193-page ruling, it was clear details remain to be sorted out, including what health insurance exchanges will look like and exactly what it will mean for Maine.

Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell, suggested the state budget would have to be revisited: It was balanced, in part, she said, on millions in anticipated savings from the ACA being overturned and more people moved off MaineCare. The other way to cut those rolls would be with a federal waiver, something the state has been told will be hard to come by.

"We passed — the Legislature, not including Democrats — passed a budget that was totally a house of cards," Treat said on a conference call with reporters.

She questioned whether Maine has time to set up a health insurance exchange, a means of comparing plans, finding out about subsidies and buying insurance.

"The law says the states have to tell the federal government by November (about plans), but even if they shifted that date, we haven't done what we need to do," Treat said. "This is a functioning thing that needs to work, both on the Web and behind the scenes. Just look at our current computer problems at DHHS. I don't think you're going to get that up and running in the space of a couple of months."

Barring a state exchange, there will be a national exchange come Jan. 1, 2014. "It's just not going to be tailored the way we might want to do it," Treat said.

In a written statement, LePage called the ruling a "massive overreach" that infringed upon the American Dream.

"This decision has verified what President Obama has refused to admit all along, which is to say this law is an enormous tax on the American people," he wrote. "The federal government can force you to do or buy anything, as long as they call it a ‘tax.’ This massive tax hike will only destroy the American economy as it forces us over the financial cliff."

Steven Michaud, president of the Maine Hospital Association, said cuts to Medicare reimbursement already under way to implement "Obamacare" are expected to cost Maine hospitals $900 million over the next decade.

"There are good things in it, but it was a very tough pill to swallow because we're already paid so poorly under Medicaid," he said. "The theory is hospitals will benefit from the expansion of coverage, 30 million nationally, but what our concern has always been, well, we know for sure the Medicare cuts are in because they're already phasing in now. We better hope like crazy more people are covered. That would in theory provide more revenue."

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 129,000 people in Maine have no health insurance, which works out to one of the lowest rates in the country.

The individual mandate will bring more healthy people into the insurance market, which is a good thing for the system, said Andrew Coburn, professor of public health at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.

"The biggest question mark is the Medicaid expansion provision (in) what I've seen so far," he said. Whether to go ahead and expand MaineCare and accept new money, "That's a question the Legislature will have to decide post-November."

Cummings in Farmington said more people covered by health insurance means more preventive care.

"Prevention is better than cure, anytime," she said.

She said she was surprised by Thursday's ruling.

"If you listened to the hearing, which I did, you were not overly optimistic," Cummings said. "It kind of renewed my faith in the system."

kskelton@sunjournal.com

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.

Advertisement

Comments

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Totured Decision

With so many good fixes to the current insurance system, upholding the law is great for 99% of Americans. "enormous tax on the American people" as LePage says is a figment of his and the Republican misinformation machine. It is not an enormous tax on Americans. Its a small tax on a most Americans who do not have to pay it and a modest tax on the 1% who can more than afford it.
Its not the solution though. Only when we have a single-payer system with the corporate insurance bureacrats who waste 30% of the health care insurance premium out of the picture can America once again be the most competitive country in the world and change the ridiculous fact that we pay twice as much as the rest of the industrialized world for the worst health care system.

Steve Bulger's picture

Modest???

The preliminary estimates reflect a tax increase for a family of four with a taxable income of $30K of almost $700.00 for this year and over $2000.00 in 2014. Doesn't sound very "modest" to me.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

don't know where you get your numbers but they sound like

a fantasy.

Their are no tax increases on individuals in the ACA just a tax penalty for not getting insurance so nothing needs to be estimated. The Penalties are explicitly in the law for an individual $95 in 2014, $395 in 2015, $695 in 2016. Sounds like the right-wing taking taxes for other than individuals and making the false claim that individuals will have to pay them which they don't and prorating assign taxes to them that they don't pay.
You offer no source so no one can really know the credibility of these "taxes"

Mike Lachance's picture

You want numbers?

"The new taxes, which cost some $675 billion over the next decade, include:

• A 2.3% excise tax on U.S. sales of medical devices that's already devastating the medical supply industry and its workforce. The levy is a $20 billion blow to an industry that employs roughly 400,000.

Several major manufacturers have been roiled, including: Michigan-based Stryker Corp., which blames the tax for 1,000 layoffs; Indiana-based Zimmer Corp., which cites the tax in laying off 450 and taking a $50 million charge against earnings; Indiana-based Cook Medical Inc., which has scrubbed plans to open a U.S. factory; Minnesota-based Medtronic Inc., which expects an annual charge against earnings of $175 million, and Boston Scientific Corp., which has opted to open plants in tax-friendlier Ireland and China to help offset a $100 million charge against earnings.

• A 3.8% surtax on investment income from capital gains and dividends that applies to single filers earning more than $200,000 and married couples filing jointly earning more than $250,000.

• A $50,000 excise tax on charitable hospitals that fail to meet new "community health assessment needs," "financial assistance" and other rules set by the Health and Human Services Dept.

• A $24 billion tax on the paper industry to control a pollutant known as black liquor.

• A $2.3 billion-a-year tax on drug companies.

• A 10% excise tax on indoor tanning salons.

• An $87 billion hike in Medicare payroll taxes for employees, as well as the self-employed."

Source: Investors Business Daily June 28, 2012

You want more? there are financials on this ludicrous tax package all over the 'net. And they all say the same thing. This is the biggest tax increase on ALL Americans in the history of the United States.
Did you get that? ALL. Everyone. from big to little, rich to poor, small business to large business, healthcare and non healthcare will ALL be affected.
Wake up please.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Ah they chamber has arrived.

As the list makes clear, a few minor taxes on individuals in the 99% as I said. Even the $87 billion hike in Medicare payroll taxes is minor compared to th 2% cut we have enjoyed over the last several years. I'd like to see the reality of that estimate.
10% excise tax on tanning salons; so don't you have more than this, please tell me we are wasting are time on a 10% tanning tax
$2.3 billion tax on drug companies; the ACA gives drug companies hundreds of billions in profits. This is a joke.
$24 billion tax on the paper industry to control black liquor. First, its not a tax. Second, this has been proposed in one form or another for decades. Its long over due. The Paper industry is a capital intensive industry. $24 billion which if it comes from the paper industry is probably 10 times the real cost will hardly be noticed.
3.8% on the 1% ers for capital gains; should have been 25%.
Few taxes on the 99%, modest taxes on the 1%. All in all, will have almost no impact over the 10 years it was scored for.

Only the medical devices concerns me and only long enough to find out the truth. All your information comes from these companies. They have as muuch credibility as the Chamber - none. 2.3% tax is going to devastate the industry? What's the profit margin of that industry. Where are their products made. That's $2 billion/year on 86 billion in sales. That's devastating the industry? I bet the change in gasoline prices over the last year have had a much bigger impact.

Mike Lachance's picture

Since I didnt list all 21, here are some more...

Just to add a bit more "insignificant taxes" here are some more...

"• A hike in the threshold for writing off medical expenses to 10% of adjusted gross income from 7.5%.

• A new cap on flexible spending accounts of $2,500 a year.

• Elimination of the tax deduction for employer-provided prescription drug coverage for Medicare recipients.

• An income surtax of 1% of adjusted gross income, rising to 2.5% by 2016, on individuals who refuse to go along with ObamaCare by buying a policy not OK'd by the government.

• A $2,000 tax charged to employers with 50 or more workers for every full-time worker not offered health coverage.

• A $60 billion tax on health insurers."

• A 40% excise tax on so-called Cadillac, or higher cost, health insurance plans."

http://news.investors.com/article/616549/201206281902/supreme-court-conf...?

How long will the Ostriches on the left keep telling us these are all insignificant taxes and only affect 1% of us?
Such seriously deluded logic has no bounds.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

So?

You gave us the bottom line earlier - $675 billion over 10 years. I said then and I say now so what. We have a $2.8 trillion health care bill each year. That's less than 2.5%. On an industry (not individuals) with the highest profit margins in the US and perhaps the world. Which are expected to increase their profits greatly under this law.
I guess what scares you and the Chamber is, unlike the Republicans, Democrats expect to actually pay for the proposals they pass as laws. Fiscal Responsibility - you know what Republicans talk about all the time but never deliver.
What do we get for this $675 billion. Radical cuts in health care costs, shifts in demand from hospitals to doctors offices and clinics, reductions in serious health problems, reduced time off work, increased productivity, better health, long life spans, higher quality of life, a shift in the health care system from sickness system toward a wellness system, and improved economy. Cheap at the price.

Jim Cyr's picture

Mr. Albrecht, we have

the best Health System in the world. What other place has a better one ? And if they can get away with this "unconstitutional" fiasco, who says they will not take over the car industry and force us all to but electric cars or get "TAXED" ? I will repeat myself again, "This country is getting ruined by the PROGRESSIVES" and the uninformed electorates.

Tony Morin's picture

Wait, wait!

Hold the phone! The highest court in the land has spoken, but Jim still thinks it's unconstitutional. Perhaps we should have the Supreme Court take another look at this with Jim's input.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Our unique Constitution

Our Constitution is unique in that every citizen can decide that an act of the government is Constitutional or not. The President can, all the members of the House and Senate can. Jim can. I can. But the only 9 who matter are on the Supreme Court. We just happen to have the most politicized court since the Taney Court in the 1840's and 50's making up law from who knows what. Certainly not the Constitution. So don't be too hard on Jim. He's probably addicted to FoxNews and therefore is one of the worst informed Americans. Its just not his fault. And don't be too hard on Roberts faced by the radical judicial activism of his four collegues on the right and the sound rationalism of his four collegues on the Left he may have a bruised brain which demands that he exercise if no one else will a little judicial restraint.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

What did progressives have to do with this.

Roberts, as right-wing as you can get, leading member of the Federalist Society, totally committed unlike his right-wing fanatic Republican justices to judicial restraint, gave you this decision. If progressives had had their way we would have universal health care, no individual mandate (a republican idea first proposed by the Heritage Foundation, Newt Gingich, and Sen. Grassley which progressives hate), and no court case.
Better Health Care systems. Well pick any industrialized country. Whether rated by the UN or its offshoots, private health care rating organizations, NGO's, or anyone who uses a fact based rating system the US health care system produces the worst results in the industrialized world. We rank somewhere between mid-teens to low thrity's world-wide. Now if you are a multi-millionaire you can get the best care in the world here. But the ratings are based on what everyone gets not just the elite.
The Federal Government has had and has used the power to "force" people to buys things since its very first days. One of the first pieces of Federal Legislation was the militia act in 1792 and it required every militia member to supply his own rifle and a specific list of related items if he could not afford a gun and accessories the Federal Government would subsidize his purchasing the items.
So if legislation is passed to force us to buy electric cars; they have the constitutional right to do so.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Only Hannity tries to sell the idea we have the best health care

system. No doctor, medical school, expert, participant in the health care system believes that.

Ann Power's picture

how

you can't pay now so we will fine you to make sure you don't pay total ignorance, are they really that dumb down there?

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Yes

Yes

Allisa Milliard's picture

so if you don't buy

so if you don't buy insurance, you pay a tax. does anyone know yet how it will be included when filing taxes during tax season? will it be a credit or not applicable or how will it work?

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Well not exactly

The legislation explicitly prevents the IRS from enforcing the tax penalty which is $95 in 2014. Tax forms may have to be changed to include a question about your health insurer. If its blank or that insurer says you don't have coverage, the IRS could levy the fine. But the IRS can not collect the fine. It can't place a lien on your property nor garnish you wages. It can't change the tax you owe in the next year. So you will owe the IRS but they can't collect.

JOHN PAINTER's picture

Great questions, and I think

Great questions, and I think most of us are still looking for more clarification likely now with the ruling.

If you have insurance through your employer there's no change.

If you do not have insurance through your employer and choose not to buy health insurance there is a penalty or as it could now be called; an excise tax. There will be significant discounts for purchasing insurance through the exchanges, up to 400% of the federal poverty level, for example a family of three would qualify with a household income under $74,000.

If you do not pay, the amount you pay would be based on the usual things like taxable income, number of dependants, etc I expect a calculator on the IRS web site http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=220809,00.html you could expect the penalty to phase in starting in 2014 roughly: $95/adult, $47.50/child (max $285/family), then in 2015: $325/adult, $162.50/child (max $975/family) and finally in 2016: $695/adult, $347.50/child (max $2,085/family).

Advertisement

Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...