The historic U.S. Supreme Court decision on health care ignited a firestorm of reaction from federal and state elected officials in Arkansas.
Republican legislators vowed to continue their fight to repeal the health care law, while Democrats expressed caution moving forward.
Sen. John Boozman (R) said, “I am disappointed in the outcome but respect the decision reached by the Supreme Court. However, just because the Court found the law to be constitutional, does not mean it is good policy.”
Boozman, an optometrist, said he was troubled by the tax interpretation of the ruling. “This is all the more reason to step up our efforts to repeal the law and its accompanying tax increase, and put in place free market solutions that lower costs and allows a patient centered approach to making health care decisions,” he said.
Sen. Mark Pryor (D) was supportive, but measured, in his reaction. “The law we passed, while not perfect, is already making health care more affordable, accessible and reliable. It is benefiting children, adults and seniors throughout our state.”
Pryor mentioned families who have discussed health insurance problems with him at town hall meetings.
“The protections upheld today by the Supreme Court will continue to benefit these families, and thousands of other Arkansans who have struggled with the cost of health care in our country,” he said. “I am still analyzing today’s ruling. While it provides more certainty, it still allows us to work in a bipartisan way to improve our health care system.”
GOP Congressmen Tim Griffin (R) and Steve Womack (R) quickly issued statements disagreeing with the majority opinion from the nation's highest court.
Calling it a “monumental error,” Griffin said he sided with the four justices in the minority.
“I agree with the dissent that Obamacare is ‘invalid in its entirety,’” Griffin said. “I will continue to fight to repeal President Obama’s health care law so that we can replace it with patient-centered health care reform that maintains high quality service, empowers consumers, promotes innovation, lowers costs and is supported by hardworking American taxpayers.”
Womack, who represents the conservative Third District said the ruling was a “bad day for America and a major victory for big government.”
“I am surprised and disappointed with today’s ruling. With respect for the court's decision, I will continue to advocate for full repeal of this massive expansion of government and do away with an unwanted and restrictive tax on the American people by replacing it with common sense, patient-centered reforms,” Womack said.
At the statehouse level, Gov. Mike Beebe (D) said he was studying the ruling.
“We will study the impact the Court's ruling will have on health care in Arkansas going forward,” said Beebe. “In the meantime, our separate initiative to create cost savings and improve health care in Arkansas continues. Our aim is to set an example other states can follow, regardless of what transpires next in Washington, D.C.”
Beebe, who is on a trade mission in France, has allowed his state Insurance Department Director Jay Bradford to pursue setting up health insurance exchanges in Arkansas. Bradford said earlier in the week that effort would proceed if the Supreme Court upheld the law.
But Republican lawmakers, who have fought the creation of an exchange, have advocated for months a “wait-and-see” attitude regarding the court's ruling on the law's constitutionality before spending any federal money on state implementation of the law.
On Thursday, House Minority Leader Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs) said, “Today’s Supreme Court ruling says that Obamacare is constitutional, but it doesn’t say that it is good public policy. Putting the government between you and your doctor may be constitutional per the court, but that doesn’t mean it is a good idea.”
Westerman implied that the issue would be a hot campaign topic this fall as the GOP attempts to gain majority control of the Arkansas House and Senate.
“Today’s decision presents a choice to the people of Arkansas: Do you agree with the health care law of President Obama that increases taxes on the middle class and hurts Arkansas workers by making it harder for small businesses to create jobs, or do you agree with conservatives who are fighting for hardworking taxpayers at every level of government?,” said Westerman.
“The lack of fight by some in state government on behalf of Arkansans should illustrate who is committed to our people and who is committed to their party,” he added.
State Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R-Little Rock) expressed concerns on the “tax” interpretation by the court and predicted the fight for federal health care reform is now a state issue.
“Based on a cursory reading of the majority opinion, it appears that there is no longer any compulsion upon the state to implement the federal act. What this means is that the battle has now shifted to the states. We as conservatives, will not support spending taxpayer dollars to implement this overly burdensome act in Arkansas,” said Hutchinson.
“If enough states refuse to implement the exchanges, the scheme will collapse under its own weight. If Republicans take over a majority in the Arkansas Legislature, we commit that we will not subject the residents of Arkansas to this burdensome act,” he added.
Talk Business will update this story later today.