The following are reactions from lawmakers and other officials to Thursday's Supreme Court ruling on the health care law.
Gov. Chris Gregore, D-Wash.
"I applaud today's Supreme Court decision. Since the Affordable Care Act was signed by the President, we have worked tirelessly to implement it in our state, with my firm belief that it was constitutional and would ultimately withstand legal challenge. I'm extremely pleased that the majority of the Court agreed on the merits of the law highlighted in the briefs that I and others submitted on its behalf.
"The real winners today, however, are the millions of Americans and Washingtonians who have and will now continue to benefit from this Act. Among them are more than 50,000 young adults in our state who have gained insurance coverage through their parents' plan, our more than 60,000 seniors who've annually received assistance to purchase needed prescription drugs, and the millions here that are no longer subject to unfair practices by insurance companies. And with this cloud of legal uncertainty removed, I look forward to the day not long from now when more than 800,000 people in our state will be able to use our Health Benefit Exchange to get the health insurance that they need but currently must go without.
"This is a historic decision that will allow Washington to continue as a leader in providing access to quality, affordable health care to its residents. I am excited for what this means, and thank and congratulate the President and all those responsible for their foresight and perseverance in getting us to this day."
Attorney General Rob McKenna, R-Wash.
"Our system of government provides a series of checks and balances, allowing new laws-especially ones that raise major constitutional questions-to be tested in court," said Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna. "While we're disappointed that this close decision did not find in the states' favor with regard to the individual mandate, the country benefits from a thoughtful debate about the reach of federal power into the legal rights of the states and the personal financial decisions of all Americans."
A majority of the Court also agreed with states' argument that the federal government may not take away existing Medicaid funds from states that choose not to participate in the expansion of the Medicaid program.
"Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the ACA to expand the availability of health care, and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use," the Court wrote. "What Congress is not free to do is to penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding."
"Now the federal government must treat the states as equal partners, as both seek to provide health coverage for the poor," said McKenna.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
"This is a victory for the health care security and stability of Washington families. Today's ruling means that families and small business owners will continue to benefit from better access, more choices, and a health care system that no longer works only for those who can afford it. It means that health care decisions will be in the hands of patients and their doctors, and that insurance companies will be forced to compete for the business of Washington state families.
"It is also welcome news for all those across our state who are already benefitting from this law. It means that over 62,000 young adults in Washington will be allowed to keep their health coverage, that tens of thousands of Washington seniors will continue to receive checks for Medicare support, that hundreds of thousands of patients will continue to access free preventative services like mammograms and colonoscopies, and that millions of policy holders will continue to see the value of their premium dollar improve.
"This decision offers a chance for those on all sides in this long and impassioned debate to begin the process of moving forward. It is time for us to come together to find common ground. As this bill continues to be implemented, there is no reason why we can't all work together to fix what's not working and take advantage of what is.
"This law is the product of the stories and struggles of millions of Americans, including countless Washington state families that shared their stories with me. Over the last three years I have heard from young people who couldn't find affordable coverage, seniors facing the Medicare donut hole, and everyday Washingtonians who were suddenly faced with catastrophic illnesses.
"Today, with this ruling, my hope is that they have been provided peace of mind knowing that the change they fought for has not been defeated."
Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.
"I am disappointed that most of this 2,700-page law written by Democrats behind closed doors and rammed through Congress remains law," said Congressman Doc Hastings. "I have voted 30 times to repeal, defund, and eliminate all and parts of this job destroying, government-knows-best approach to healthcare.
"Without full repeal of Obamacare, millions of Americans will continue to lose their current health coverage, seniors will have fewer Medicare choices, unelected unaccountable bureaucrats will be charged with making health care decisions that should be made by individuals, families and doctors, and the government will mandate which health care plans you can use - all while adding trillions to our ever growing national debt," Hastings said.
"I will continue to support full repeal so we can move forward with a different approach - one that protects the patient-doctor relationship from government intrusion and puts patients first."
Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash.
"With regards to health care, there's no going back to 2009 or 1789," Larsen said. "Improvements to our health care are taking root right now, and that progress will continue for Northwest Washington and the rest of America. The Supreme Court's decision today to uphold the Affordable Care Act is a welcome result for middle class families across Northwest Washington and will bolster the necessary changes taking place in health care."
"We need to keep our focus on improving health care for all Americans. Improving health care means shifting the focus of health care from volume to value, improving the quality of care instead of just growing the quantity of care.
"Improving health care means keeping Medicare sustainable and affordable by closing the prescription drug donut hole and cracking down on fraud that bilks taxpayers.
"Improving health care means making sure middle class families have a diverse array of options that all offer a high standard of affordable care.
"Improving health care means we need to meet Northwest Washington's needs so seniors can see the doctors they prefer, veterans have access to the specialty care they need, and families have preventive care that fits their budgets.
"Northwest Washington is already seeing the improvements from the Affordable Care Act. Seniors in Snohomish, Skagit, Whatcom, Island and San Juan counties who are in the Medicare donut hole have saved more than $800 on their prescription medications so far this year alone. Nearly 33,000 kids and 140,000 adults in our area now have health insurance that covers preventive care like check-ups and cancer screenings without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles. The Court's ruling today means those improvements will endure.
"Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, it is time to move forward and make sure that we have health care that meets Northwest Washington's needs."
Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash.
"While I respect today's Supreme Court ruling, it is only one more point in the ongoing debate. I remain undeterred in improving health care for all Americans. The government takeover of health care raised taxes and health care costs, restricted access for patients and hurt businesses. Those problems remain and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to continue repealing harmful and expensive provisions of the law and finding common sense, reasonable solutions for Americans to have access to affordable and quality health care."
Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash.
Today, Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), a physician and senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, released the following statement after the Supreme Court issued its ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. the 2010 health care law):
"This is a HUGE victory for the American people. I always believed the law would withstand this attack by Tea Party Republicans like Washington State's Attorney General, Rob McKenna. Now that the court has reaffirmed what we all knew, the President and Congress can finish building the 'house of health' in which all Americans will have health security.
"In 2014, 32 million newly insured Americans will come into the health-care system under a commonsense plan that was originally a Republican idea. Republicans will continue to push their agenda to take away the health care of those Americans who are not wealthy or lucky enough to have a job that covers them, and to end Medicare and Medicaid.
"I think the Republican agenda of no safety net and you're-on-your-own economics is bad for America. I'll be pushing in the opposite direction - for the financially sustainable, high-quality health security that ALL Americans deserve."
Washington Republican Party Chairman Kirby Wilbur
"This morning's verdict by the Supreme Court finally defines this legislation as exactly what it is: a tax on the middle class. When President Obama was trying to sell his ill-conceived legislation he 'rejected the notion' that it was a tax; today the Supreme Court told him that he could not deceive the American public with his rhetoric any longer.
"I think it is important to highlight the distinction made by Justice Roberts in his final determination. He declared that this mandate was not constitutional under the interstate commerce clause or the necessary and proper clause. It was only deemed constitutional as a tax - the very word the President has rejected repeatedly in his pitch to the public. But spinning the story won't change the facts, Mr. President. Today's decision sets the new precedent of a federal tax to compel behavior. It is an ominous one, and serves as a very slippery slope for our country.
"This law is unusual in that opposition to it has grown since its passage. The majority of Americans still oppose major portions of this act and I doubt the Court's decision will alter that. Though the mandate was deemed a tax by the Supreme Court, and therefore constitutional, it is not now, nor has it ever been, good policy for our country. Today's decision will mobilize our base around a greater than ever urgency to elect Mitt Romney in November, and a majority of Republicans to the House and Senate, as we work towards untangling this mess and regaining our liberties."
Mike Kreidler, Washington state Insurance Commissioner
Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler expressed great relief with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision upholding the Affordable Care Act and said Washington state is now well ahead of most states in reforming its health care system.
Many reforms are currently in place, but key benefits and programs take effect in 2014, including Washington's new Health Exchange, federal subsidies to help 477,000 people afford health insurance, an expansion of Medicaid for 328,000 poor childless adults and the ban on insurance companies from denying people coverage if they're sick.
"I'm very pleased the Supreme Court chose to uphold the Affordable Care Act," said Kreidler. "We've been busy for two years now implementing the reforms and have made great progress, but there's a lot left to do before 2014. With the court decision out of the way, we can continue our focus on where it should be - bringing relief to families struggling to find quality, affordable health insurance."
The millions of Washington state consumers benefitting from the Affordable Care Act's early reforms include:
· More than 2.4 million people who no longer face lifetime caps on their health benefits.
· More than 52,000 young adults up to age 26 who have stayed on their parents' health plans.
· More than 1.2 million people who now have coverage for preventive care with no co-pays or deductibles.
· More than 60,000 people in Medicare who have saved hundreds on their prescription drugs.
Washington state also leveraged millions in federal funds available under the Affordable Care Act to create:
· Public access to health insurance rate requests.
· A new marketplace in Washington state for health insurance in 2014 - called an exchange - where people can shop for health plans, compare their options and apply for subsidies.
· A temporary health insurance program (PCIP-WA) for people with pre-existing health conditions.
"The Affordable Care Act is not perfect, but it moves us in the right direction and is the only meaningful reform that's passed in decades," said Kreidler. "The debate was clearly contentious, and I'm grateful to have it behind us. But, now it's time to focus on the work ahead - more than a million uninsured people in our state are counting on us."
King County Executive Dow Constantine
"I celebrate the Supreme Court's ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act. A stable, healthier future has been made possible by this ruling. This is affirmation of our nation-wide bold move toward achieving quality affordable healthcare, and we are moving in the right direction. And for the nearly quarter of a million people in King County who do not have health insurance this is truly a welcome life-and-death decision.
I would like to extend my thanks to the members of our Washington State congressional delegation who championed the Affordable Care Act. They should be proud of their work on this historic legislation.
Even as today's ruling upholds the Affordable Care Act, we are not going to rest on our laurels and turn away from efforts to reach those in need; we will continue to make the healthcare system more efficient. We owe it to our residents to keep searching for solutions to the healthcare issues that affect both their money and their health."
SEIU Locals 6, 775NW, 925, and 1199NW
"Today's ruling is a victory for everyone in this state. It's a step forward in the continued improvement and expansion of healthcare," said RN Vicki Neumeier, a member of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW.
"This law saves money, and it saves lives. I was at the Supreme Court in March, and stood on the steps to say we needed to protect this care. I do screenings for colonoscopies, and thanks to this law, people in this state receive free preventive care for things like colonoscopies, mammograms, cervical screenings. I am so pleased we do not have to return to the days where I would see patients who were bleeding wait to come in for screenings. By the time their cancer was diagnosed, it was far more expensive, and sometimes too late," continued Neumeier.
Already, the law provides healthcare to young adults up until age 26, prevents insurance companies from discriminating against children with pre-existing conditions, provides critical financial assistance for seniors to purchase prescriptions, and free preventive care for mammograms, colonoscopies, and other preventive care.
"Children and families are benefiting from this law. Rob McKenna's participation in this lawsuit showed that he stands with insurance companies and their profits, not people. We should be talking about what's good for our kids, not dealing with politicians who try to eliminate their care," said Nancy Gerber, a child care provider in Spokane and member of SEIU Local 925.
"The senior client I care for too often had to choose between prescriptions and groceries, but the Affordable Care Act has changed that by making those prescriptions more affordable and removing the lifetime limits on healthcare," said Berta Alvarado a home care aide from Othello, and member of SEIU Healthcare 775NW. "Insurance companies shouldn't be able to take away our care when we're sick and the idea that Rob McKenna worked with insurance companies to overturn the health reform law makes me sick."
"This decision ends the political debates that have taken up too many of our resources - the law is constitutional, it works, and it's time to move forward," said David Miles, a security officer and member of SEIU Local 6.