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Local and state reaction to Supreme Court ruling on health care

Lori A. Johnson, associate political science professor and pre-law advisor at Mercer University, on the court upholding the law’s individual mandate as a tax, and not as being within the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce, as was the Obama administration’s chief argument:

“A lot of people were concerned that if this is upheld under the commerce clause power, there was essentially no limit to what Congress could do. If they could do this, they could do anything under the commerce clause power. Here this court is saying, ‘No they can’t. There are limits.’ And what they’re really doing is just increasing the tax if you don’t have insurance.

“For constitutional law purposes, this draws a line on federal power than wasn’t clear before. As a practical matter for people who didn’t want the mandate, that’s not much comfort.”

On the political fallout from the ruling:

“The political implications are really interesting. The Republicans are going to be opposed the act regardless. And it’s been a campaign issue for them all along. Romney has said one of the first things he would do is repeal Obamacare. So it doesn’t really hurt them politically. For the Democrats, I don’t know if it’s a victory. It’s a really important a non-loss. To lose it would have been really harmful for them.”

On what the ruling means to consumers:

“Most of this doesn’t even take effect until 2014. Anybody who’s telling you now this is how it is doesn’t even know, because until the health exchanges take effect and go into play, nobody really knows how much things are going to cost, how much the penalties are, how it’s going to work.”

Don Faulk, CEO, The Medical Centers of Central Georgia:

“I think I was mildly surprised about the mandate. If they had thrown the whole thing out there would have been a hue and cry about some of the perceived benefits that would come along with that.

“There have been three arenas for this thing to play out: the legal arena, the political arena and the real practical arena, and obviously I live in the third. What we have seen is a major step in the legal arena. It won’t be the last word. I have a feeling there will be other fusses and fights along the way in that legal arena. But wheat I’m thinking takes place now is in the political arena. And it’s going to take up so much energy as the parties fire back and forth against each other in this election year, that it’s going to sap any logical discussion about the third area, which is the practical ... what’s really going to happen.”

Tom Driver, president, Geotechnical and Environmental Consultants Inc. in Macon:

“I really didn’t know what to expect. ... I didn’t formulate an opinion about whether I liked (the new health law as passed by Congress) because I didn’t know what the full impact would be. Now that I know it’s going to be upheld I can try to figure that out.”

Geotechnical has 55 employees and the company provides opportunities for employees to buy health insurance.

“My question is if we provide opportunities for employees to have insurance, and if one of my employees decides not toe take it, will we be penalized? I don’t know the answer to that yet.

“Also, what will be the cost to the employee if we decided to not provide insurance, and pay the penalty? What will be the cost to the employee (if they have to buy their own insurance)? We don’t know the answer to that. As an employer, I have to figure out which is best for employees and which one is best for us. My understanding is the coverage is going to be about the same as what most insurance companies provide right now. We won’t make any changes or decide anything until 2014. ... I really don’t know what the true impact will be for us or our employees.”

Charles Briscoe, CEO, Coliseum Health System:

“We will continue to work with patients, payors and the government to ensure a smooth transition as the provisions of the law are enacted. We are pleased that millions of Americans will have coverage for better access to vital medical services, preventive care and acute care.”

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal:

“My battle with Obamacare didn’t start when I was elected as governor of Georgia. I wear with pride my bruises and scars from the fight against its passage in the U.S. House. Today, the highest court in the country let the American people down.

“While we recognize this is a huge setback for fiscal sanity and personal liberty, we are not giving up. Georgians and the American people deserve high-quality, sustainable health care. Congress must now work steadfastly on repealing this law and replacing it with reforms that help taxpayers instead of hurt them.”

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens:

“I disagree with this decision. Congress explicitly said this was not a tax. I call on Congress to act swiftly, repeal the law and replace it with real reform that respects the Constitution as written.”

Cary Martin, CEO, Houston Healthcare

“We are pleased a decision has been reached and handed down by the United States Supreme Court. However, because the details are so extensive, we are still trying to determine and digest what it all means – both to our community and our organization. Until we are able to better understand the ruling and revisions to the law, we -- like everyone else -- will not fully know the impact it will have.”

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