Opinion fails to change minds

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Opinion fails to change minds

Jessica Tambre, a registered nurse, talks with a patient in the emergency room at Mercy Regional Medical Center. After the Supreme Court ruling, Kirk Dignum, CEO of Mercy, said, “It’s business as usual for us and more than 100 other hospitals in Colorado. We’ll go on following federal and state guidelines to serve patients the same as before the ruling.”
Ruling stuns attorney general; Gov. Hickenlooper applauds it

DENVER – Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling on national health-care reform came as a shock to Attorney General John Suthers, who went to court to overturn it.
Suthers, a Republican, sued the federal government on behalf of Colorado, joining 25 other states. The National Federation of Independent Business filed a separate lawsuit. The Supreme Court decided both cases at the same time Thursday.
Suthers was surprised by the ruling, in which Chief Justice John Roberts – appointed by former President George W. Bush – upheld the mandate that everyone must buy insurance. Roberts said the mandate acted like a tax, which is within the power of Congress to enact.
“The court has endorsed Congress’s unprecedented decision to mandate that individual Americans buy a particular product or service or pay an economic sanction,” Suthers said in a written statement.
Suthers has argued that the law is the same as forcing someone to buy a fuel-efficent car.
“Now that the court has endorsed this unprecedented exercise of federal power, I worry that Congress will pass other laws requiring people to buy one product or another to further a federal government policy,” he said.
On the other hand, Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, welcomed the ruling and said it will help the nearly 1 million Coloradans who don’t have health insurance.
He pointed out that the Legislature created a health-care exchange two years ago to give people and businesses a way to find affordable coverage. The exchange is scheduled to open in October 2013, and Hickenlooper said the state would have kept it even if the Supreme Court overturned the federal law.
“We had contingencies whether it was shot down or it was upheld. We never slowed down,” Hickenlooper said.
Suthers found one “silver lining” in the decision. The federal government cannot take back all its Medicaid payments to states if states don’t cooperate by expanding their health-care coverage for the poor.
Roberts noted that federal Medicaid money make up 10 percent of some states’ budgets, and he said Congress can’t engage in “economic dragooning” by threatening to withhold the funds.
“This means, at least, that there are limits on the federal government’s power to compel states to make policy,” Suthers said.
jhanel@durangoherald.com

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Jessica Tambre, a registered nurse, talks with a patient in the emergency room at Mercy Regional Medical Center. After the Supreme Court ruling, Kirk Dignum, CEO of Mercy, said, “It’s business as usual for us and more than 100 other hospitals in Colorado. We’ll go on following federal and state guidelines to serve patients the same as before the ruling.”
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