California state officials speak on SCOTUS ruling

California’s foremost elected officials are speaking out about the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“Today’s dramatic Supreme Court ruling removes the last roadblock to fulfilling President Obama’s historic plan to bring health care to millions of uninsured citizens.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

“There is a healthcare crisis in this country, a crisis with profound implications for each citizen in every city and county in America. Today’s United States Supreme Court decision, which upheld the individual insurance requirement, is just a start. But the decision allowing states to opt-out of Medicaid expansion still leaves millions of Americans vulnerable.

“We can — and must – act now to do more to offer healthcare access to all. We do not have time to stand on the sidelines. There is a crisis but there is also a solution.

“Americans know it is much less expensive to keep people healthy than it is to treat their sickness. This is particularly true when much of the treatment for uninsured Americans is provided in costly emergency rooms. Without a universal healthcare plan, our emergency rooms will continue to bear the brunt of this crisis and citizens will pay the price with higher taxes, more expensive premiums, hidden costs and increased fees.

“While serving as mayor of San Francisco, I saw first hand the impact of the healthcare crisis on the insured, uninsured, businesses, emergency rooms and municipal coffers.
We decided to address this crisis head-on and launched the country’s first local universal health care program, Healthy San Francisco. It is blueprint that can be replicated by cities and counties across the nation. A public plan can work. San Francisco is proving it.

“Since being implemented, more than 80 percent of uninsured San Franciscans have received medical coverage. Healthy San Francisco is not health insurance, instead it provides access to affordable basic and ongoing health care services for the uninsured, regardless of immigration status, employment status, or pre-existing medical conditions.

“We must not wait for the federal government to take the lead in the wake of the today’s Supreme Court decision. Cities and counties across the nation, such as Dallas, Indianapolis, and Miami, have already taken steps to establish healthcare service access programs. California must move forward with innovative programs, like Healthy San Francisco, that provide access to healthcare and not simply access to healthcare insurance.”

From Attorney General Kamala Harris:

“Today’s decision is a historic victory for Californians, for the President, and for the country. The Affordable Care Act repairs a healthcare system badly in need of reform and ensures that every American has access to affordable health care. We never doubted the constitutionality of this law, and it is already making a difference in the lives of millions of Californians.”

More, after the jump…

From Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones:

“The passage of the Affordable Care Act is one of the most significant legislative achievements in the last forty years. The Court’s decision today is a critically important one for the future of the entire nation. The Affordable Care Act is especially important for California, which is home to over seven million uninsured people, one million of whom are children. And it means that the millions of Californians who have health insurance will continue to enjoy benefits such as keeping their kids on their insurance to age 26, prohibitions on rescinding your insurance, elimination of lifetime and annual caps on your benefits, no co-payments for preventive care, cheaper medications for seniors on Medicare—the list of immediate benefits goes on and on.

“While the Supreme Court’s decision is good news for Californians, there is one reform missing from the Affordable Care Act. The missing piece of the Affordable Care Act is the absence of authority to reject excessive health insurance rate hikes. Californians have been hit with double digit health insurance rate hikes year after year. Health insurers have been making record profits at our expense. As Insurance Commissioner, I do not have the authority to reject excessive health insurance rate hikes. Since 1988 the Insurance Commissioner has had the authority to reject excessive rate hikes for auto, home, property and casualty insurance, and saved consumers and businesses tens of billions of dollars. But not health insurance. We need to pass a law in California to give the Insurance Commissioner the authority to reject excessive health insurance rate increases. The State Senate should do this by passing Assembly Bill 52.

“Since the beginning of my tenure as Insurance Commissioner I have fought hard to ensure that the various reforms comprising the Affordable Care Act would be implemented in California. On the night I was sworn in, I issued an emergency regulation to implement one of the most important pieces of federal health care reform—the requirement that health insurers put more of the premiums they collect from us into medical care.

“I also issued regulations to implement another important benefit of federal health care reform—the requirement that health insurers provide health insurance to children even if they have a pre-existing condition. It used to be health insurers could deny children health insurance if they had a pre-existing condition, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we were able to put an end to this deplorable practice. In 2014 millions of adults who have been denied health insurance due to pre-existing conditions will also gain this critical access to health insurance coverage.”

“Today’s ruling is a validation President Obama’s leadership in enacting the Affordable Care Act and of our efforts toward implementation of these reforms. Since its inception, I have been a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act and I will continue to work diligently to implement its components in California in order to make sure that all Californians have affordable access to health care. And I will continue to work for even stronger reform, such as single payer universal healthcare and the authority to reject excessive health insurance rate hikes.”

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court is a victory for all Californians. The Court’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of the landmark Affordable Care Act will ensure that the President’s efforts expand access to affordable, quality health care for individuals regardless of age, income, or pre-existing conditions will continue moving forward.

“As the author of legislation establishing California’s Health Care Exchange, I am committed to continuing our work to reform California’s healthcare system to ensure that millions of Californians can get coverage that is comprehensive and affordable and doesn’t discriminate based on pre-existing conditions.

“President Obama and Congressional Democrats showed great leadership in enacting the Affordable Care Act and today’s decision reinforces that leadership. California has been the national leader on implementing federal healthcare reform, and today’s decision affirming the wisdom and constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act means we will continue to move full-speed ahead.”

From state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“This is a historic ruling on many levels. It affirms our nation’s commitment to quality health care and strengthens the credibility of the United States Supreme Court.

“No illness should force financial devastation on individuals and their families; limiting access to routine check-ups often leads to severe sickness, expensive treatment, and even greater distress for families.

“With the legal case out of the way, we can now use the foundations we’ve already built to focus 100 percent on maximizing the law’s benefits for all Californians. Since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, California has already secured hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding to expand coverage to Californians with preexisting medical conditions and increase services provided by community clinics.

“And as the first state to establish a health care exchange under the new law, California will soon have the infrastructure to simplify health care enrollment, making it easier for both individuals and businesses to compare plans and purchase coverage.

“For too long, California’s taxpayers have footed the bill for people without health insurance. This burden will be reduced by billions of dollars with President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.”

From state Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, vice chair of the Senate Health Committee:

“The Court has ruled, so our duty now is to implement the ACA responsibly and cautiously. I look forward to working with my colleagues to do just that. Anything we do must be examined through the prism of affordability – which could be a challenge in this legislature. My concern is that the Court’s ruling will be seen as a green light by some to expand beyond what the Federal law requires. California can’t afford to do that.

“Just yesterday the Democrats moved 880,000 poor children currently enrolled in the popular and successful Healthy Families Program (HFP) into the problem plagued Medi-Cal program to “save money.” There is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow and there are many challenges facing the state that need to be addressed as well as health care.”

From Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber:

“While I agree with the four dissenting justices who opined that the ‘act is completely invalid’, today’s majority ruling from the Supreme Court is certainly a disappointment. The Court ruled today that Obamacare is nothing more than a massive tax increase on every American, likely the largest in U.S. history. With a stagnant economic recovery and millions of Americans still unable to find jobs, it is imperative that Congress moves immediately to repeal this costly new tax. I fear that Obamacare will do nothing more than confuse and diminish health care nationwide.”

“I urge my constituents, and the majority of Americans who strongly disagree with this policy, to keep fighting and let their voices be heard. Now, more than ever, we need fiscally-responsible health care reforms that will give patients more affordable choices without raising taxes or growing government.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.