COLUMBIA — The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold most of the Affordable Care Act championed by President Barack Obama has drawn heavy criticism from Republican candidates for Missouri political offices.
The three main Republican challengers to incumbent U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, all released statements criticizing the Supreme Court's decision.
- "Today’s ruling does not end the need for continued opposition to this offensive overreach into the most private aspect of Americans’ lives," U.S. Rep Todd Akin said.
- "Obamacare is fundamentally flawed and the absolute wrong approach to health care reform," St. Louis businessman John Brunner said.
- "Today's ruling is not a Republican ruling. It is not a Democrat ruling. It is an establishment ruling. Lead by Chief Justice (John) Roberts, an establishment appointee, more focused on keeping power in the hands of Washington politicians," former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman said.
McCaskill spokesman John LaBombard also released a statement.
"There's only ever been one goal for Claire — affordable, accessible health care for Missouri."
Republican U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler called the decision "disappointing." Her main Democratic opponent, Teresa Hensley, could not be reached for comment. Hartzler and Hensley are running to represent the new Fourth Congressional District, which includes Columbia.
Not all reactions were based along party lines.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon announced earlier in the week that he opposes the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. On Thursday, Nixon's reaction to the Supreme Court ruling was ambiguous.
"We're just now beginning to review this ruling so that we can understand exactly what it means for Missouri," Nixon said in a news release. "This ruling has significant complexities and implications for families, health care providers and insurers in our state."
In August 2010, Missouri voters took a strong stand against the health care law. With 71 percent of the vote, Missouri adopted a statutory change seeking to exempt Missouri from the individual mandate requirement.
The U.S. Supreme Court on a 5-4 vote upheld the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance or pay a fine. A key part of the ruling labels the fine for not purchasing insurance as a "tax."
Republicans were quick to note that distinction and criticized Democrats for increasing taxes during a recession.
Roberts wrote the opinion for the divided court. The court's traditionally liberal members joined him.
The only part of the health care law to be rejected by the court was the expansion of Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act had called for states to expand their Medicaid programs to people with incomes at 133 percent of the national poverty line. Failure to do so could have jeopardized all of a state's Medicaid funding from the federal government.
The Supreme Court, however, ruled the federal government could not withhold Medicaid money from states that choose not to expand their programs.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., announced shortly after the ruling that the U.S. House would vote to repeal the health care law in its entirety on July 11.
Here are the reactions of other Missouri politicians:
State Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah, and candidate for Missouri lieutenant governor:
"I am disappointed in the Supreme Court’s ruling today, that upheld the single largest tax increase in the world. I believe that we should work more for our families than we do for government. I believe the best government is one that governs least, not one who seeks to tax our behaviors. We now know that our public leaders failed us once again due to (the) fact they simply did not read the legislation. Our president said this was not a tax increase and today we now know the truth. Why there have been many politically motivated lawsuits, the only way to defeat this policy is to elect competent conservative leaders that will fight for our values.”
Attorney General Chris Koster, Democrat seeking re-election:
“Missouri’s brief before the Supreme Court argued a simple, but important, principle: The individual mandate was not constitutional under the Commerce Clause, but could conceivably be upheld, if the court saw fit, under the taxing power. A majority of justices agreed with Missouri’s analysis that the Commerce Clause could not be used to force citizens to purchase health insurance, but found that the ACA was constitutional under Congress’ taxing power.
“The complexity of the decision raises a host of pressing issues for our state, including the need to establish our own health care exchange and Missouri’s future options regarding Medicaid expansion. We will be carefully reviewing the court’s decision in the coming days to determine the best way to protect Missourians, including the decision’s impact on Proposition C, passed in 2010 by more than 70 percent of the vote.”
Ed Martin, Republican candidate for attorney general:
“I am thoroughly disappointed by the Supreme Court’s ruling today. Proponents of individualism and the free market such as myself have been dealt a serious blow. ObamaCare is an egregious attack on our personal freedom and liberty, and will have untold consequences for our country in the years to come. With more federal regulation and overreach undoubtedly on the way, we need and deserve an Attorney General who will be our lawyer, not Obama’s lawer."
State Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, and candidate for the 19th District state Senate seat:
"This is a great victory for Missouri and its citizens. This decision means that college students and other young adults across the state have the option of remaining on their parents health insurance while they transition into their first job. It also means transparent, more affordable health care options for all Missourians through a statewide health insurance exchange. As a member of the Health Insurance Committee, I worked to create the framework for a health insurance exchange that would provide for a more transparent and competitive insurance market, which would bring down insurance rates for all Missourians."
Teresa Hensley, Democratic candidate for Missouri's Fourth District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives:
“We should never stop working to lower health care costs for all Americans, but now that the court has issued its decision, its time to return the focus to creating jobs and putting our economy back on track."
Missourian reporter Matthew Patane contributed to this report.