There was split reaction among Connecticut interest groups and government officials Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court voted to uphold President Barack Obama's sweeping health care legislation.
The narrow 5-4 ruling, which, most importantly ruled Constitutional the individual mandate that will require most people to purchase health insurance in 2014, brought praise from many leading Democrats in the state and raised concerns from business interests.
"Today's ruling is a landmark moment in the fight for stable, secure health coverage for all Americans," Congressman Joe Courtney said in prepared remarks. "Congress debated, the Supreme Court decided, and now the implementation of the Affordable Care Act can move forward."
Courtney went on to say that the health care reform law isn't set in stone and that Congress has the authority to make changes to it in the future in response to real-life problems.
"For example, we already repealed the onerous 1099 filing requirement last year, and extended age 26 coverage to military families after ACA's enactment," Courtney said. "I look forward to actively promoting that smart, positive effort."
Meanwhile, one of Connecticut leading business lobbying groups said the ruling "is a deep disappointment to small businesses everywhere."
"The tragedy in this ruling is that Connecticut residents are now at the mercy of politicians from other states and bureaucrats in Washington whose decisions won't be based on what is best for Connecticut," said Andrew Markowski the Connecticut state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. "Small businesses here will be overwhelmed by mandates, taxes and burdens imposed on them by people whom we cannot as easily hold accountable."
The court's ruling upheld the law's central provision -- a requirement that all people have health insurance.
The importance of the decision cannot be overstated: It will have an immediate and long-term impact on all Americans, both in how they get medicine and health care, and also in vast, yet-unknown areas of "commerce."
The polarizing law, dubbed "Obamacare" by many, is the signature legislation of Obama's time in office.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, which said that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution does not give Congress the authority to require people to have health care, but that other parts of the Constitution did.
The act passed Congress along strictly partisan lines in March 2010, after a lengthy and heated debate marked by intense opposition from the health insurance industry and conservative groups.
When Obama signed the legislation later that month, he called it historic and said it marked a "new season in America."
While it was not the comprehensive national health care system liberals initially sought, supporters said the law would reduce health care costs, expand coverage and protect consumers.
In place of creating a national health system, the law banned insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, barred insurers from setting a dollar limit on health coverage payouts, and required them to cover preventative care at no additional cost to consumers.
It also required individuals to have health insurance, either through their employers or a state-sponsored exchange, or face a fine beginning in 2014.
Supporters argued the individual mandate is critical to the success of the legislation, because it expands the pool of people paying for insurance and ensures that healthy people do not opt out of having insurance until they needed it.
Critics say the provision gives the government too much power over what they say should be a personal economic decision.
Frances G. Padilla, executive vice president of Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, applauded the Supreme Court's decision saying "Hundreds of thousands of residents can look forward to getting the health care they need and keeping consumer protections, such as guaranteed coverage, regardless of preexisting conditions."
Connecticut State Medical Society President Dr. Michael M. Krinsky, said "Although the law does not guarantee patients access to medical care, it removes an important barrier to care, which is the ability to have health insurance coverage.
"Clearly even large insurance companies have come to understand the benefits of extending insurance coverage to young adults under their parents' policies in agreeing to leave those benefits in place no matter the outcome of the decision. Raising Medicaid reimbursement rates to match Medicare levels may bring about greater access to care for patients who have the most acute health needs and the least ability to obtain regular medical care today. Now it's up to state officials to choose whether to pursue this important course of action to increase access."
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, who has been a major advocate of health reform over the years, said "This victory, while critical, is only a new starting point. The federal government – and Connecticut – must maintain momentum to reform and improve our health-care system at every level.
"Connecticut has been a leader in health care innovation – transforming its own health care system, as an employer, to save lives and dollars by focusing more on quality preventative care."