By Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s political leadership responded negatively Thursday morning (June 28) to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Governor Mary Fallin said she did not plan to call a special session to deal with the decision’s impact on state policy, but added a special session “is always a possibility.”
In response to a question from The City Sentinel, Governor Fallin said she and other governors believe “we can provide solutions better than the federal law.” Fallin said state leaders disagree “that one size fits all” in health care policy.
Fallin described herself as uncertain about the meaning of the Court’s mixed ruling, which in a 7-2 vote found the state Medicaid spending mandate unconstitutional even as the Court upheld the individual mandate to purchase or secure health insurance. Chief Justice John Roberts colorfully described the Medicaid spending mandate as a gun held to the heads of American states.
Fallin estimated “Obamacare will bring a half-billion dollars in new costs” to Oklahoma. She said she and legislators will need to “see how the pieces of the puzzle fit together” in the ruling.
Fallin said she did not think the Court’s decision yields good public policy, and that the federal law does not address better access, better quality and other needed reforms in the nation’s health care system.
The Republican governor said at least the Court “clarified that ObamaCare is a tax on Americans.” Fallin said she and her legal advisors are studying the 100-page majority opinion to “see what it means.”
The Sooner State’s chief executive said she is glad there is an election in November, giving Oklahomans “a chance to express how they feel” about the federal law.
Fallin expressed no regrets for the 2011 decision she and other state leaders made to avoid creation of a health exchange (http://www.capitolbeatok.com/reports/upon-further-reflection-oklahoma-leaders-reject-federal-money-for-health-exchange-state-to-build-ins), as mandated in the federal law.
Pressed as to whether or not it was a mistake to “wait and see” on the lawsuit brought by a majority of the nation’s state attorneys general, Fallin said it was not an error. She believes the mixed nature of the ruling ratified the inclination to wait for clarity in what would withstand judicial scrutiny.
In prepared comments distributed during a brief press conference with members of the Capitol press corps, Fallin spoke forcefully against the decision as a whole, saying:
“Oklahomans have voiced their opposition to the federal health care bill from the very beginning, having approved a constitutional amendment to block the implementation of this bill in our state. We believe that, rather than Big Government bureaucracy and one-size-fits-all solutions, the free-market principles of choice and competition are the best tools at our disposal to increase access to health care and reduce costs.
“I’m extremely disappointed and frustrated by the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the federal health care law. President Obama’s health care policies will limit patients’ health care choices, reduce the quality of health care in the United States, and will cost the state of Oklahoma more than a half billion dollars in the process.
“Today’s decision highlights the importance of electing leaders who will work to repeal the federal health care law and replace it with meaningful reform focused on commonsense, market based changes.”
Speaker of the House Kris Steele issued a statement within about 90 minutes of the High Court ruling, saying:
“It’s unprecedented to see America’s highest court rule that the federal government is more powerful than the individual despite the fact that our nation’s founding principles say the opposite. This was a deeply divided opinion, with the dissenting justices explaining precisely why Oklahoma has opposed this law from the beginning.”
The Shawnee Republican continued, “The constitutional concerns that led Oklahoma to tread carefully with policy decisions on all elements of this law – big and small – have proven valid, given the narrowly split opinion. Our best hope now is to elect those willing to repeal this law and work together to find better solutions to the significant health care challenges faced by our state and nation.”
Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, a Sapulpa Republican, shared the frustration of several state leaders about the decision. He said,
“The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the president’s health care law is not only disappointing — but frankly, it makes no sense. Oklahomans simply do not believe it is constitutional for the government to force individuals to purchase a private product, period.
“What Oklahomans want is conservative, common-sense health care reform to lower the cost of care using free-market principles. They want to protect the doctor-patient relationship and make sure we have access to the care we need. Worse yet, the president’s health care law will continue undermining this fragile Obama economy by driving up health care costs and squeezing the job creators in Oklahoma and around the country.”
Echoing Gov. Fallin, Bingman commented, “We must turn our focus toward November and elect leaders who will repeal and replace ObamaCare.”