By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Reaction in Brooklyn to the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold virtually all of President Barack Obama’s health care act went this way:
•Democrats were basically self-congratulatory, saying the decision validates their party’s position.
•Republicans and Conservatives were passionate in their determination to step up efforts to repeal the law.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing with the 5-4 majority, said an “individual mandate” that nearly every American must have health insurance is a valid exercise of Congress' authority to "lay and collect taxes."
"Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness," Roberts said.
The court found problems with the law's expansion of Medicaid, but even there said the expansion could proceed as long as the federal government does not threaten to withhold states' entire Medicaid allotment if they don't take part in the law's extension.
Retiring Rep. Ed Towns (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant) focused on the effect he said the law has had in Brooklyn.
“Current law has already provided vast benefits to residents in neighborhoods all over Brooklyn. Over 349,000 residents have had their health insurance coverage improved. Medicare has improved for over 75,000 beneficiaries, including closing the prescription drug coverage gap [the “doughnut hole”], making necessary prescriptions more affordable,” he said in a statement.
Similarly, Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn Heights) said, “Upholding the Affordable Care Act will mean that 80,000 uninsured residents in New York’s 12th Congressional District will have access to coverage. Nationally, 2.5 million additional young adults up to age 26 now have health insurance through their parents’ plan.”
However, Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Bay Ridge) blasted the bill.
“I am disturbed by the fact that the president willfully misled the nation by saying the individual mandate was not a tax," Grimm said. "Time and time again he sought to assure the American people that this bill would not raise taxes on the middle class, yet this is the very argument the president’s team used to uphold the law.
“President Obama has pulled the wool over the eyes of the American people and broke a fundamental promise by imposing on us one of the largest middle-class tax increases in the history of the country.”
Fellow Republican Rep. Bob Turner (R-Southeast Brooklyn) added, “While declared constitutional, the Supreme Court’s ruling does not change the fact that it is still a very bad law. Congress has already found many mandates in Obamacare that would hurt small businesses and kill jobs.”
Both urged that Congress repeal the law.
As far as local and state officials were concerned, statement after statement poured in from Brooklyn Democrats praising the ruling.
For example, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Fort Greene) said, "I am also hopeful that congressional Republicans will end their single-minded attempts to overturn or weaken this landmark law. With so many other challenges facing us, Congress needs to start its work on issues that will move our great nation forward.”
And Borough President Marty Markowitz said, “With this historic ruling behind us, we can hopefully begin to close the health care disparities that exist everywhere, but particularly in Brooklyn. … There is absolutely no excuse for Americans having to do without life-sustaining medications and medical procedures while we rely on an existing system that simply hasn’t worked,”
But if you listened to Bay Ridge resident Michael Long, chairman of the state Conservative Party, you'd think you'd be listening to a description of a totally different ruling.
“The Supreme Court has said it’s a tax,” said Long, “and so it is — the biggest tax increase in the history of the middle class. It will result in hardships for thousands of small businesses. This makes it more imperative for the legislative branch to repeal Obamacare.”
The Conservative Party is closely allied with the Republican Party, especially in Bay Ridge.
David Truman, an attorney who is a member of the Brooklyn Bar Association and teaches health law at Columbia University, said, "The law has a lot of positive points, like eliminating pre-existing conditions and annual lifetime caps, but doesn't solve a lot of problems we have in the health care system. The court's ruling allows Congress to continue to revise modification of the health care system.
"This law isn't a radical revision of the health care system, it isn't national health insurance. All it has done, I believe, is to expand what we have now."
Ron Najman, spokesman for SUNY Downstate Medical Center, said, "We are pleased that — now that the Affordable Care Act has been resolved — people in our community who have not been insured are poised to have increased access to insurance.
"Up until now, the effect of the Act has been limited due to the fact that while provisions have come into being, some of those, such as children being able to stay on their parents' insurance for several years, were already part of New York state law."