THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, June 29, 2012
Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida
Business groups and health care providers were quick to express concern and outright disappointment Thursday as the U.S. Supreme Court upheld major portions of the federal health care package, known by opponents as Obamacare.
Following the court's 5-4 decision upholding a federal mandate on insurance coverage, business interests critical of the health care reform said the battle will now turn from the judiciary to the political arena.
"The court's decision today is a loss for American competitiveness," said Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce."So from a worldwide perspective, it just got more expensive to do business in the United States. We will do whatever we have to over the next several years to undo these expensive mandates on small business."
Florida business groups had led the charge against the federal Affordable Care Act, calling it a mandate that will fall on the shoulders of businesses still struggling to recover and facing more competition from the Internet, nearby states and foreign suppliers. The National Federation of Independent Business was a plaintiff in the case, along with Florida and 25 other states.
Many also bristled that court's opinion reinforces criticism that the initiative, despite backers' claims, represents yet another tax.
"Florida hoteliers and restaurateurs are faced with a myriad of taxes and regulations to sustain their business," said Carol Dover, president of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. "This additional tax on health care services is the wrong decision at the wrong time.?
The high court's decision to give states some say in whether they will participate in one part of the law requiring an expansion of Medicaid brought some solace, with some business groups saying attentions can now return to crafting health care legislation to improve access without putting businesses at risk. Much of that discussion has been muzzled as all sides waited for the court's decision.
"We got into this case so we could stop what we thought was an ill-advised approach to health care reform," said Bill Herrle, executive director of NFIB/Florida. "Now that the Supreme Court opinion is in, we remain where we have been always, advocates for market-based reform and opponents of the mandate.
"The good news out of this ruling is that that now we can get back to the work of making public policy," Herrle said.
The nearly 200 page ruling, with its myriad concurring opinions, dissents and shifting support, will become fodder for legislatures around the country as individual states wrangle with an evolving set of requirements and inevitable challenges.
"Today?s decision left unresolved many critical questions about the legal and regulatory frameworks for the future of health care in Florida," said Tom Feeney, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida."Now more than ever, Florida needs the smartest and most capable policy minds preparing for our state?s health care future." AIF recently announced it would undertake a major health care effort in the upcoming legislative year.
The focus now turns to the how the federal law will be put in place.
"It's going to be weeks, maybe months, before people really understand the implications of what the court did today," Wilson said. "I'm not talking about the legal implications, but the implications of how does this actually work on Main Street.