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Most NY leaders hail health care ruling

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New York's politicians and major health care providers are applauding the Supreme Court's decision to uphold President Obama's health care law. Meanwhile, an Albany Law School expert says Chief Justice John Roberts may have been concerned about his legacy, and that was a factor in his decision. Karen DeWitt has more.

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Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was the first to react in a statement saying one million New Yorkers will soon have access to affordable health insurance coverage. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli called it a victory for New Yorkers and Americans, and says that it will bring in $1 billion a year to the state in additional Medicaid dollars. Hospitals in New York are happy too.

Dan Sisto is head of the state’s largest hospital lobby, the Healthcare Association of New York, and he says that the ruling comes as welcome news. “It also, of course, protects the public in terms of a lot of the new insurance reforms that have been built in, and it provides clarity at a time of massive uncertainty. You know, in the economy and the health center,” said Sisto.

Sisto added that hospitals do have lingering worries. These include whether the federal government will follow through with the additional funds needed to fully implement the law. “Our anxiety, of course, is we still have a national debt problem, and they could come back and, by hammering us over and over again, you could actually diminish the capacity of the hospitals, nursing homes and home cares to deliver on the promise of what health insurance is supposed to provide: access to health care,” said Sisto.

Blair Horner, with the American Cancer Society, says that it’s great news for cancer patients both present and future. He said, “The statistics are staggering. One in two men, and one in three women get a cancer diagnosis in a lifetime. And for people with cancer or other serious illnesses, the second bad news after diagnosis is you don’t have health insurance. That shouldn’t happen now going down the road.”

Albany law professor Vince Bonventre is an expert on the Supreme Court. He recently wrote a blog poste entitled “A Court of Shameless Partisans” and said, “Too frequently with this court, which is the reason why it deserves the reputation it’s getting, is that you have four versus four, and it’s not along the lines of any consistent constitutional philosophy on the part of either one of them. It’s how would a democratic politician vote, and how would a republican politician vote? And that’s really a disgrace.”

Bonventre believes that Chief Justice John Roberts is well-aware of the Supreme Court’s growing reputation as partisan and wants to preserve his legacy. Bonventre said, “I was pretty convinced that Roberts was going to do something so his court wouldn’t look awful, you know, like a bunch of partisan hacks.”

However, Bonventre says that Roberts remains consistent in his conservative views. The Chief Judge ruled that the president’s health care plan was not constitutional under the Federal Commerce Clause and that there is no authority to require people to buy insurance. Instead, he wrote that the health care law is instead constitutional under the nation’s tax laws because Congress has the authority to tax people who refuse to buy coverage.

Bonventre compares the ruling to Chief Justice John Marshall’s reasoning in the early 1800s case and said, “In Marbury vs. Madison, Chief Justice John Marshall just lambasted the Jeffersonian for what they did, but then ultimately held for them. That’s what Roberts does in this case. He says that there’s no commerce power for the federal government in order to have Obamacare, which is exactly what the Obama administration was arguing. So with that, he goes with the conservatives. But then all of a sudden he plays this switch and he relies on the taxing power of the federal government.”

States will now go forward with the health insurance exchanges that are required under the health care law. Governor Cuomo has already created one in New York by executive order. Horner says that the governor should work quickly to get the panel up and running and said, “The Cuomo administration really should push the pedal to the metal in creating its health exchange so that it’s up and running in time for people to get health insurance in 18 months.”

In a statement, Cuomo said that he plans to move forward with implementation of the health exchange. He says it will help ensure access for New York’s uninsured and lower health coverage costs for business.

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