By M.D. Kittle Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – It didn’t take long for Republicans to threaten R&R Thursday morning – and we’re not talking about rest and recuperation.
Within minutes of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to, and often derisively, as Obamacare, conservatives across the land rallied around the GOP’s push to “repeal and replace” the controversial law.
Wisconsin’s conservative congressional delegation was no exception.
“Freedom took a real body blow,” said U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis, in a statement following the high court’s narrow, 5-4 decision. “It’s now up to Congress – and hopefully a new President – to repeal this unpopular monstrosity and replace it with free market reforms that will actually improve the quality and restrain the cost of health care.”
And so began the amplified rallying cry of Republicans to defeat President Barack Obama in November and take back the Senate.
If Republicans can maintain their momentum — which flared in the November 2010 not long after Obama signed the health care act into law — and take control of both houses and the White House, they’ll be able to do what they’ve dreamed of doing and what they believe the Supreme Court should have done: Kill the law.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, architect behind conservative budget reforms, said the ruling only strengthens the case for “repeal and replace.”
“With the right leadership in place, I am confident we can advance real health care solutions for the American people,” Ryan said in a statement. “It is now in the hands of the American people to determine whether this disastrous law will stand.”
There reason for Republicans to hope, pundits say. Chief among them: the public’s apparent distaste in general for the health care law.
Before today’s decision, about 28 percent of Americans said they would be pleased if the Supreme Court determined the health care law was constitutional, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Another 35 percent of Americans said they’d be disappointed if the court upheld the law, and 37 percent sounded conflicted or unsure.
“It could very well be a short-term victory” for Democrats, said Joe Heim, political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. “I still think it’s an uphill battle for Obama. If (presumptive GOP nominee Mitt) Romney wins, in January (Republicans) will go through the motions of repealing it. They are committed to doing that.”
“Repeal and Replace” now becomes the call to re-energize the Republican base, Heim said.
But Romney faces his own health care legacy – his Massachusetts health care plan, akin to the federal law, that Democrats are sure to go after.
Dems: No do-overs
Wisconsin’s Democratic congressional delegation, not surprisingly, applauded the ruling, pointing to its potential galvanizing effect.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, of Madison, the Democrat in the contentious U.S. Senate race to replace long-serving Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl, said the ruling drives home the idea that it’s time both parties come together to make the law work.
“I disagree with those who want to rip up the decision of an independent court and start over,” she said in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, pointed to the pre-existing coverage clause in the law as a big reason that a law he considers imperfect must be preserved.
“During the health care debate, a young mother introduced me to her 1-year-old son, Henry,” he said in a statement. “Before Henry was born, he suffered a seizure in the womb and therefore, upon his first breath, they were told he was uninsurable due to a pre-existing condition.
“I’m especially pleased that today’s ruling ensures that Henry and the 39,000 children in western Wisconsin with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health care.”
But the law also mandates individuals must carry health insurance or pay a fine.
Conservatives argue the law, backed by the Supreme Court, comes with a $700 billion tax over the next several years, something proponents of the law denied in the health care debate.
“Today’s decision is a win for Big Government and a loss for Wisconsin families and job creators,” said U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R- Weston in a statement. “This law is an aggressive and unwarranted intrusion of government into our lives.”
Resistance at home
Meanwhile, Gov. Scott Walker reiterated that he will not proceed with the implementation of the so-called health care exchanges promulgated in the health care law.
Walker said he prefers to wait for November to make any decisions. By that time, he’s hopeful Republicans will control congress and the White House.
“If there is no political remedy from Washington and the law moves forward, it would require the majority of people in Wisconsin to pay more money for less health care,” the governor said in a statement. “Additionally, it would increase the size and cost of government, decrease the quality of health care and, in our state, reduce access for those truly in need of assistance.”
Affordable Care Act proponents countered that the law already is providing greater access, as in the example of the expanded number of seniors covered under the prescription drug benefit, and the increased quality comes through a new focus on prevention and outcomes.
Jonathan Jaffery, a professor in the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public
Health, said the court ruling means as of Jan. 14, all, or nearly all Americans, will have “access to affordable health care. About 32 million uninsured will be covered,” he said.
Health care for the first time will be based on care coordination and successful outcomes rather than the “piecemeal, pay-for-service” model, Jaffery said.
The governor, the health care expert said, is in a tight spot.
“If you are a Republican governor, it’s a tricky situation,” he said. “Your constituency, your more hard right, is going to hold you to task as not being in support of anything involving the Affordable Care Act or the administration.
“But if you ignore it and don’t set up an exchange, the federal government does it for you in 2014. So you’re abdicating that role to the federal government.”