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AZ Week Notebook entry


By Paul Ingram, Arizona Week Intern

The U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that Congress could require people to buy health insurance, and penalize those who not with a tax, reaffirmed the Affordable care Act in a 5-4 decision announced this morning.

Led by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court supported nearly all the provisions of the 2010 bill, including the expansion of Medicaid funding to states, however it would not allow the federal government to penalize states that did not cooperate.

This decision protects provisions, including the ban on the use of preexisting conditions to refuse care and allowing adult children to remain on their parent’s health insurance until they are age 26.

President Barack Obama praised the decision, stating “Whatever the politics, today’s decision was a victory for people all over this country whose lives are more secure because of this law and the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it.”

After the announcement, the stock market was split on the decision as hospital stocks rose while the market price for insurers tumbled, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Arizona governor Jan Brewer reacted to the court’s decision with a prepared statement, “Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court flies in the face of what most Americans know to be true: ObamaCare is an overreaching and unaffordable assault on states’ rights and individual liberty.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney declared during a press conference that he would “act to repeal Obamacare” on his first day in office. Romney’s campaign reported it raised $375,000 in two hours after the decision was reached, according to Politico.

El Rio Community Health Center, one of the largest healthcare providers in Tucson, applauded the decision.

In a press release, executive director Kathy Bryrne wrote, “This means that in the coming years millions of newly insured people, and communities identified as medical shortage areas, will gain access to doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses and other health care professionals, and the quality cost-effective primary and preventive services health centers provide.”

Recent analysis by the U.S. Census Bureau noted that 83.7 percent of people have some kind of health insurance, however, this has declined from 85 percent in 2007, representing about 900,000 people who have lost their insurance since the economic recession started. The number of people covered by private insurance has been decreasing since 2001, according to the bureau; Medicaid has been making up the gap.

As the Arizona Republic noted, 1.2 million Arizonans (or about 19 percent) are not covered by health insurance. While Arizona was at the center of the legal challenge, the state accepted a federal grant to organize and fund the state’s health insurance exchange, the court’s decision will require the state to continue the program or hand it over to the federal government.

The program includes $16.4 million for software to track the exchange, a $1 million planning grant—used to borrow staffers from other state agencies to develop the exchange—and $29.8 million as an “establishment” grant.

While much of the bill’s provisions have yet to be engaged, some of its provision have already affected Arizona residents.

According to figures from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and reported by the Arizona Republic, the Affordable Care Act allowed nearly 60,000 adult children under 26 to remained insured.

Similarly, in 2011, more than 637,000 received free preventive care like mammograms and colonoscopies, as well as annual wellness visits. Finally, nearly 2,000 received healthcare despite preexisting conditions.

Friday at 8:30 p.m., Arizona Week will cover this issue in-depth with analysis by the Goldwater Institute, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a health care economist, the head of Tucson medical Center and a physician who operates a care improvement program under the Affordable Care Act.

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About AZ Week Notebook

News and commentary from Arizona Week producer/host Michael Chihak and interns Melanie Huonker and Lucy Valencia.