AUGUSTA — Many Maine groups and political leaders today are reacting to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the national Affordable Care Act.

In Maine, more than 121,000 people, or about 9.4 percent of the population, lack health care coverage. Numbers may rise due to Medicaid cutbacks authorized by latest state budget.

Maine has already implemented some changes included in the national law, such allowing parents to add coverage of children up to age 25 and outlawing denial of insurance coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

Statements today on the Supreme Court’s ruling:

— Maine Attorney General William Schneider: “The Supreme Court today held that the penalty that an individual must pay for refusing to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power . . . The individual mandate does not withstand constitutional scrutiny if Congress uses the Commerce Clause as the source of its power, and the mandate could not have politically withstood the opinion of the American people if it had been branded a tax when the law was being devised.

“What Congress is not free to do is to penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding.

“The expansion of Medicaid on the backs of state budgets through all-or-nothing bullying tactics
was rejected by the Court. We are carefully reviewing the decision to evaluate
how this will specifically impact Maine.”

Steven Michaud, president of the Maine Hospital Association: “The Affordable Care Act (ACA) presents both challenges and opportunities for hospitals and the health care sector in Maine. The challenges involve significant reductions in Medicare reimbursement. Those cuts, the phase-in of which has already begun, will reduce hospital revenues by $900 million during this decade.

“The corresponding opportunities associated with those cuts include providing uninsured individuals a greater opportunity to be covered through either Medicaid or the private commercial market with the assistance of government subsidies.

“The ACA also has opportunities for improvement of the health care system through payment reform ideas like “value-based purchasing” in Medicare, which rewards high quality states like Maine, and Accountable Care Organizations, which seek to lower costs through better care management and coordination.

“While each side has its merits, now that the law has been upheld, MHA hopes that state leaders will work to ensure that the law is implemented in ways that fully benefit Maine citizens. The challenges posed by the ACA, such as payment reductions to Maine hospitals and the taxes on insurance products will take effect, so we must work together to make sure that the corresponding benefits to Maine citizens are fully realized.”

Joel Allumbaugh, the Maine Heritage Policy Center’s director of Health Reform Initiatives: “This is a sad day for Mainers. Obamacare will drive insurance rates up, tax Maine employers and threaten the viability of our private insurance market. By upholding the ACA, the Supreme Court has approved federal legislation that assaults personal liberty, costs $2 trillion and creates a massive expansion in entitlements.

“This unprecedented attack on an individual’s freedom to choose a consumer product is a blow to free enterprise and market-based competition. Mainers will now be coerced by the federal government into buying an expensive health insurance plan that they do not want.”

— Nancy Cummings, MD, president of the Maine Medical Association: The Maine Medical Association has supported the requirement that individuals be covered for health care expenses since 2003 and it is the foundation upon which our White Paper on Health System Reform is built. The association recognizes that not all of our members support all of the law, and we will work diligently to advocate for correction of its obvious flaws.  But we now will be able to build upon its good points.”

— Maine People’s Alliance health care organizer Jennie Pirkl: “The law has been proven constitutional. It’s time for Governor LePage and Republicans in Maine’s Legislature to accept this decision, stop playing political games and get to work implementing health care coverage under the law. In the next session, state leaders should implement a strong health insurance exchange through the Affordable Care Act that works for Maine people, and not just the insurance companies.

“Establishing a strong health care exchange in Maine should be the next step in the direction of more affordable and accessible care and could put us on the road toward a single-payer system and truly universal health care coverage.”

— U.S. Rep Chellie Pingree, D-Maine: “The Court made the right decision in preserving the basic consumer protections in the health care reform law—like letting young people stay on their parents’ policies or preventing insurance companies from canceling your coverage when you get sick. The court did the right thing by ruling in favor of consumers instead of siding with the big insurance companies.”

— State Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell, ranking Democrat on the Insurance and Financial Services
Committee: “The action by the court today is an incredible victory for the millions of Americans and tens of thousands of families across Maine, who will soon be able to afford to get the care and medication they need…. Now that we have a decision, it is time for people to put aside the politics and posturing. We must roll up our sleeves and make sure Maine people get the access to affordable health care that they need.”

— State Rep. Linda Sanborn, D-Gorham, a retired family physician who serves on the Health and Human Services Committee: “People should never have to go bankrupt because of illness or injury, or die of a treatable disease. Now, we can finally put aside the politics and focus on fixing the health care crisis in our country and our state . . . ObamaCare put our nation on the right track by prioritizing prevention, stopping the worst abuses by insurance companies, such as revoking insurance after you get sick or refusing to insure pre-existing conditions or discriminating against women; and making health care affordable for families and businesses.”