A Victory for Obamacare, but What’s Next for Texas?


Eileen Smith

In a landmark decision this morning the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act as constitutional, including the controversial individual mandate requiring most citizens to purchase health insurance if they don’t already have coverage. But what makes the ruling even more historic is that Chief Justice John Roberts joined the majority in its opinion. Sure, it’s not as unbelievable as Justice Antonin Scalia having drinks with Justice Sonia Sotomayor but it’s close.

Republican opponents had nervously awaited the court’s decision, their staff poised to send out one of two press releases, either praising the court for its infinite wisdom and undying patriotism or slamming the court for being stacked with liberal activist judges. Will Roberts replace Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote?  Even worse, will Obamacare now be known as Roberts-care?

In ruling that the health care act is constitutional, the court upheld not only the centerpiece of the law—the individual mandate—but also other key provisions such as protecting Americans with preexisting conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance. The mandate was upheld by the court as a tax. which would only affect a small percentage of the population. Americans who don’t buy health insurance will face a penalty of one percent of their income. Employers who don’t offer insurance could also face penalties. While most people would argue that the individual mandate is a huge victory for President Obama, Republicans can also claim victory by repeatedly referring to it as a tax, thereby providing a new mantra for the conservative media.

Naturally Texas Republicans in the House quickly weighed in on this national travesty, just as they did following initial legal arguments back in March. (These actually may be recycled press releases, slightly edited for content.) Congressman Pete Sessions said that he’ll continue to fight for a full repeal to “restore the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship and put an end to Washington bureaucrats’ power.” Congressman Sam Johnson cited the law’s $500 billion in tax hikes. (See? At least someone has read the footnotes!) Congressman Jeb Hensarling upped the ante by saying that the Affordable Care Act “assaults religious freedom” in some kind of inane shout-out to the Conference of Catholic Bishops.

So what does the decision mean for Texas, the state with the highest percentage—one in four—of uninsured people in the country? Apparently the prospect that more Texans would be eligible for Medicaid, enabled by increased federal funding, was bad enough that Attorney General Greg Abbott joined 25 other states in suing the federal government over the expansion of the program.  The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Medicaid expansion, but ruled that the federal government cannot penalize states who opt out by withholding their existing Medicaid funding. This means that Texas can continue screwing Medicaid patients at will despite the new Medicaid expansion. Everyone’s a winner!

Leave it to Gov. Rick Perry to use the most forceful albeit absurd language in his official statement:

“This ruling will be a stomach punch to the American economy. It is a shocking disappointment to freedom-loving Americans desperate to get our country back on track … Americans have made clear their overwhelming opposition to its convoluted, burdensome and overreaching mandates. 

“Freedom was frontally attacked by passage of this monstrosity—and the Court utterly failed in its duty to uphold the Constitutional limits placed on Washington. Now that the Supreme Court has abandoned us, we citizens must take action at every level of government and demand real reform, done with respect for our Constitution and our liberty.”

Does anyone else smell another golden opportunity for secession?