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Remarks on SCOTUS Ruling on Health Care Law

Governor Sean Parnell
June 28, 2012

My intention today is to provide some initial thoughts about the Supreme Court ruling, federal health care legislation, and also speak to what steps the state is taking in light of that ruling.

That U.S. Supreme Court ruling brings to the fore two overarching concerns of Americans—Freedom and keeping their own hard-earned money in their pockets. With growing government health care, Alaskans stand to lose more freedom, and pay more of their hard-earned wages to the federal government in the form of taxes.

Alaska stood with more than half the states in opposing the individual mandate as an unconstitutional infringement of Alaskans’ freedoms. The U.S. Supreme Court deemed that provision constitutional, but not for the reason that Congress thought.

When it comes to individual freedom and the individual mandate, we may have lost a battle, but we are not going to stop fighting. This ruling should rally Americans to action and galvanize support for congressional change.

Members of Congress who supported passage of this legislation thought they did so while exercising their powers under the Commerce Clause. Turns out, the Supreme Court said that was an unconstitutional reason for taking the vote they did.

It makes me wonder how many senators and representatives want a do-over, now that the Supreme Court says they had it wrong.

Congress, according to the Court, could not act under the Commerce Clause, but instead acted under its taxing powers to impose a giant, new tax on Americans to pay for this piece of legislation.

On the Medicaid front, the Supreme Court noted that, “There is no doubt that the Act dramatically increases state obligations under Medicaid.” While the Congress apparently can force Americans to buy a product under its taxing powers, the Court said the federal government cannot coerce the states into expanding a state’s Medicaid program by threatening to cut off all Medicaid funding to the state.

The Court said that when federal pressure for a program “turns into compulsion,” the legislation runs contrary to our system of federalism. The Court cited another case to say, “[T]he Constitution simply does not give Congress the authority to require the states to regulate.”

The impacts on Alaskans have been spoken well of today. I’m not going to speak of those in detail:

  • This new federal tax forcing every American to purchase a product, a service,
  • Over $500 billion in cuts to Medicare.
  • Health care spending increases.
  • The higher taxes on individuals, families, and small businesses throughout America for the new IRS reporting requirements for millions of Americans.

Those are all costs that are out there in the media today. But also, if you look back at the recent media, it not only speaks to how costly the new federal legislation is, but how unworkable it is. According to a June 16, 2012 Wall Street Journal piece, “The (federal) Administration has missed nearly half of its statutory deadlines and talk of a one-year delay is rising within the healthcare industry and among pragmatic liberals.”

Where we have a Court decision, the people can act, and the people’s representatives can act. As the people’s representative as the governor of this state, we have several issues in front of us. You’ve heard at the national side, you’ve heard about asking Congress to repeal and replace.

As governor I’m focused on what this means for Alaskans and Alaska.

On the state side, several issues jump out. One is: What is the scope of this 193-page decision. I have had the opportunity to read parts of it; I have not read it in its entirety yet. We have Department of Law analyzing it. Department of Health and Social Services is working their way through it. The first question is: What is the true holding of the 193-page decision and its scope and its impact on our programs as a state and our abilities as our people’s state government?

I think specifically about Medicaid expansion costs that are mandated by this, but now with no penalty we need to rethink what we’re going to do with Medicaid and the requirements that have been imposed by the Act.

I think about the insurance exchange costs and how that all ties together. And of course, the other downstream requirements of the Act.

As I think about the decision today I basically have come back to: We’re going to get good information once we’ve reviewed the decision. And I will work to shift back to the federal government those costs it is imposing on our citizens.

So the policies that this administration will pursue: We will work to shift back to the federal government those costs they have shifted to us or are working to shift to us.

And secondly, I’d like to see the federal government allow states more flexibility when it comes to Medicaid, to meet the needs of Alaskans, to meet the needs of our constituents. I think that is a common theme among many of our nation’s governors as well.

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