Local pols hail Obamacare court victory

New York State Attorney General, Letitia James, speaks during a news conference, to announce criminal justice reform in New York City, U.S., May 21, 2021.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid, File

Caribbean and other elected officials on Thursday welcomed the United States Supreme Court’s rejection of a challenge to strike down the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare.

In a vote of 7-2, the Supreme Court dismissed the challenge in the case California v. Texas that will leave the law intact and save health care coverage for millions of Americans.

The justices turned away a challenge from Republican-led states and the former Trump administration, which urged the justices to block the entire 2010 law, according to CNN.

The Supreme Court overturned the decision by a lower court, holding that the Texas-led coalition never established the standing needed to bring this lawsuit in the first place.

New York Attorney General Letitia James and a coalition that included 20 states and the District of Columbia on Thursday hailed the decision as “a major victory.”

The coalition defended the ACA against a lawsuit brought by a Texas-led state coalition that sought to dismantle the health care reform law, which has provided new coverage to at least 20 million Americans, coverage for pre-existing conditions for more than 133 million Americans, and the ability for young adults to stay on a parent’s health plan, among other things.

“For more than a decade, the Affordable Care Act has been the law of the land, providing health coverage and a multitude of protections to tens of millions of Americans across the nation, and today’s decision solidifies those protections for generations to come,” James said.

“While Republicans have repeatedly tried to take us backwards in time and strip health coverage away from millions, we have now beaten those efforts over and over again and, specifically, three times at the Supreme Court,” she said.

“The ACA is here to stay, and millions of Americans nationwide can now breathe a sigh of relief. Young people, seniors, women, those with disabilities, those with pre-existing conditions, low-income Americans, and millions more will continue to receive the coverage they have come to rely on since the law’s passage in 2010,” James added.

But the New York Attorney General said while the coalition celebrates Thursday’s decision, it will “remain vigilant against further attempts to deprive millions of Americans access to quality, affordable health care, and will be ready to take any further action necessary to protect Americans’ right to health coverage.”

The lawsuit — originally filed by a Texas-led coalition and later supported by the Trump administration — argued that Congress rendered the ACA’s individual mandate, or minimum coverage provision, unconstitutional when it reduced the penalty for forgoing coverage to $0.

The lawsuit further argued that the rest of the ACA should be held as invalid as a result of that change.

But the Supreme Court on Thursday found that the Texas-led coalition never established the standing to bring the case in the first place and rejected all arguments made.

Attorney General James and a coalition of attorneys general first defended the ACA in court in January 2019.

In addition to New York, the coalition that brought the case before the Supreme Court included the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota (by and through its Department of Commerce), Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as the governor of Kentucky.

Brooklyn Congresswoman, Yvette D. Clarke. Photo by Nelson A. King

Caribbean American Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, described the Supreme Court’s ruling as “a momentous victory for the American people and a resounding repudiation of the war on health care.

“Republicans have waged a years-long battle to undermine the Affordable Care Act and rip coverage from millions of Americans,” Clarke, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, told Caribbean Life. “Today, it was rejected again by the Supreme Court, because, let’s be very clear, health care is a human right.

“This decision should represent the dying gasp of the war on health care,” she added. “The ACA is here to stay; now, let’s get Medicare for all.”

Clarke’s Democratic congressional colleague, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, said Thursday was “a great day for all Americans, including the over 100 million with preexisting conditions.

“After more than 10 years of Republican attempts to strip so many Americans of their health care, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act affirms that this life-changing legislation is here to stay,” said Jeffries, whose 8th Congressional District encompasses parts of Brooklyn and Queens. “This continued fight displays a clear contrast in terms of what we as House Democrats are about and what Republicans are about.

“Republicans champion policies for the wealthy, the well-off and corporations. Democrats fight for working families, middle-class folks, senior citizens, the poor, the sick and the afflicted. Republicans believe health care is a privilege. Democrats believe health care is a right for all,” Jeffries added.

But he said while Thursday’s historic ruling means “many Americans can rest easy, we know that our work to lower the cost of health care for everyday Americans is not over.

“House Democrats are going to continue our relentless fight to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, drive down the high cost of life-saving prescription drugs and get things done for the people,” the congressman said.

“I am elated that the Supreme Court has upheld Obamacare in the latest ruling,” said Haitian American Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party. “This means that millions of Americans will continue to receive medical care, which should be a fundamental right, especially after the crisis we all experienced these last 15 months during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Unfortunately, the Obamacare decision was followed by a big let-down to our LGBTQ+ community in the Fulton v. City of Philadelphia,” added the representative for the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn and daughter of Haitian immigrants. “It is unfortunate, during Pride month no less, to see we have to keep fighting for basic equal rights.”

Another daughter of Haitian immigrants, Council Member Farah N. Louis, said: “Healthcare is a human right.

“On Thursday, the Supreme Court wisely dismissed a lawsuit seeking to strike down the Affordable Care Act (ACA), thereby preserving health insurance for millions of working- and middle-class Americans, as well as laws that protect preexisting conditions,” said Louis, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn. “Let’s hope this 7-2 decision is the final chapter in Republican Party’s decade-long assault on Obamacare, because the ACA is here to stay.”

Veteran New York State Assemblyman N. Nick Perry, the Jamaican-born representative for the 58th Assembly District in Brooklyn, said: “What is generally accepted as a right-wing court today ruled in favor two of the most controversial issues on their agenda, and decided in the interest of the people, rather than the politics.

“It’s a satisfying that, notwithstanding the fact that right-wing Republicans are trying to take our country back, we can still have a little faith that the Supreme Court is going to do what is right,” Perry said. “We now have to wait to see how long that will last, and if this is just a mirage.”

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