Supreme Court health care ruling: Cuomo praises decision

NEWS 12 WESTCHESTER: President Barack Obama's health care survived a challenge in the Supreme Court. (June 28, 2012)

The Supreme Court's ruling upholding a central pillar of President Obama's health care reforms divided the Hudson Valley and State of New York sharply Thursday.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a supporter of the reforms, said the state will continue creating "the health exchange that will lower coverage costs for New York's businesses and help ensure that uninsured New Yorkers have access to health care."

In April, Cuomo issued an executive order to establish a statewide exchange starting in 2014, a marketplace where individuals and small businesses could tap into as much as $2.6 billion in federal tax credits and subsidies under the overhaul law. It is meant to insure every American, mainly those who don't have employer health plans or don't qualify for Medicaid. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the overhaul's main provisions Thursday.

New York State Republican Party chairman Ed Cox also issued a statement following Thursday's Supreme Court ruling, saying the issue will be decided at the ballot box: "Stopping Obamacare is now up to the American people."

Speaking on CNBC's "Squawk Box," Rep. Nan Hayworth, a Republican, denounced the law.

"It's a very bad law, very bad policy," said the Bedford ophthalmologist, who is expected to face a stiff challenge from Democratic primary winner Sean Patrick Maloney in November.

"There are so many provisions in that law that are harming job creation," Hayworth said. "Every aspect of this law has to be replaced."

In response, Maloney issued a statement chiding Hayworth: "When even conservative Justice Roberts agrees that all Americans have a right to affordable health care, it shows how out of step Congresswoman Hayworth is."

Christopher Malone, chairman of the political science department at Pace University, saw the decision as a big plus for President Obama, allowing him to campaign for re-election "on the legitimacy of his signature issue," while casting presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the Republicans as "those who want to litigate the past."

Rep. Nita Lowey, a Westchester Democrat, said the decision will help the less fortunate.

"This decision protects the coverage of 17 million children with pre-existing conditions, 6.6 million young adults on their parents' plans, and 86 million seniors and families receiving free preventive care," the veteran Democratic lawmaker said in a statement. "I will continue to work with my colleagues to improve the law and make health care more affordable for New Yorkers."

Joe Carvin, the Republican who is vying to unseat Lowey, criticized the law and said Congress must reverse the legislation.

"Today's Supreme Court decision is deeply disappointing," Carvin said. "But it serves to highlight two critical facts: Obamacare represents the largest tax increase in U.S. history, and it must be struck down legislatively by the Congress rather than through the courts."

Michael Altman, owner of the Greenleaf Pharmacy in Hastings-on-Hudson, said independent pharmacists are "under siege" by government mandates, but acknowledged that the legislation expands the elderly's to prescription medication.

At White Plains Hospital, Fanette Ceus, of Elmsford, a 19-year-old nurse in training, praised the ruling.

"If you're living on Earth, you should have insurance," she said. "Otherwise, if you get sick, who will take care of you?"

Joe Cohen, 43, of White Plains, however, decried Washington's intrusion on individual rights.

"We're doomed," he said. "This guy (Obama) has taken the Constitution and shredded it."

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said his office stands ready to enforce the law to ensure New Yorkers benefit from its protections, calling the court's decision a "historic victory" for millions of Americans.

"This law will continue to provide a spectrum of key consumer protections including keeping young adults on their parents' plans, ending pre-existing condition restrictions and increasing consumer information about health care choices," he said.

Under Cuomo's order, issued after legislation to establish the exchange stalled in the Republican-controlled state Senate, health officials plan to show by January that the state is ready to participate in the federal program. The goal is to have the exchange operating on Jan. 1, 2014, Health Department spokesman Peter Constantakes said.

New York has about 11 million residents who are insured, mainly through employer health plans, and 5 million low-income residents enrolled in Medicaid. Census data from last year showed nearly 2.9 million New York residents, or about 15 percent, without insurance, although the state estimate is 2.7 million — mainly working poor who don't have employer-sponsored coverage and Medicaid-eligible residents who haven't registered.

The Business Council of New York State said employers already struggle with high coverage costs, taxes and surcharges, and the Supreme Court's ruling does nothing to "bend the cost curve." The group said it will work to assure the exchange has full participation by insurers, agents, brokers, chambers of commerce and employers in all stages of development for "as robust a health insurance market and health care delivery system as possible."

An assortment of tax increases, health industry fees and Medicare cuts are supposed to pay for the changes. Starting in 2014, almost everyone will be required to be insured, with some exceptions, or pay a yearly fine. That would be $695 per person up to $2,085 per household, or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is greater.

"We disagree with the Supreme Court's decision to affirm a massive tax increase that people cannot afford right now," said Scott Reif, spokesman for the Senate Republican Conference.

The Associated Press Contributed to this report.

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