Division over health law bleeds into Minnesota's main political parties
ST. PAUL -- A U.S. Supreme Court ruling is the law of the land. Until it isn't.
That is the message Republicans are spreading and Democrats dreading in light of Thursday's 5-4 decision to uphold a new federal health-care law. Minutes after the ruling became public, both major parties distributed a frantic message: send money. Beyond that agreement, however, the federal law sharply divides Republicans and Democrats.
Republicans want to capitalize on the decision to get donations for their candidates, pledging to repeal what they call "Obamacare." Democrats said they need funds to keep their own in power and keep the Affordable Care Act in force.
"We will have to wait and see what the public decides," state Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said about the Nov. 6 elections.
The high court's decision that the health-care plan pushed by Democratic President Obama is constitutional kept it intact. Since the ruling, led by GOP-backed Chief Justice John Roberts, did not water down the law, both sides can continue to use arguments they have for three years.
"In my mind, it always has been a political question," Hann said.
Hann said voters are faced with a question: "Do we want this law?"
Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, a Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton appointee, held out hope that Republicans and Democrats can work together as the state implements the federal health law, much of which does not begin until 2014.
"There is common ground to be found here," Jesson said.
Overall, Minnesota reaction mirrored that from elsewhere in breaking along predictable party lines.
"Victory" is how DFL Chairman Ken Martin headlined his email to party members seeking contributions to protect the law.
Minutes later, Minnesota Republican leaders sent their own email for donations, with the simple message: "The Supreme Court has upheld Obamacare, and there's a lot of work for us to do in order to ensure that Obamacare is repealed."
Representatives of the organization that brought the lawsuit against the health law were disappointed.
"Based on the decision, the federal government can now regulate individuals simply for existing," said Mike Hickey, Minnesota National Federation of Independent Business director.
Key to the federal law, enacted two years ago, is a provision requiring most Americans to carry health insurance. But Hickey said many provisions will affect businesses, especially small firms.
The federal act, for instance, requires employers with more than the equivalent of 50 full-time workers to provide insurance or pay a $2,000 penalty per employee.
"It could be a disincentive to grow," Hickey said about businesses approaching 50 employees.
Calling the law "pretty sweeping," Hickey said most businesses have not seen much impact so far.
"There are all kinds of restrictions on health insurance," he said, and his organization thinks several provisions will add to business costs.
Jesson, however, said her figures show businesses will save money.
State Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said the federal law has many benefits, "most notably for adults and children who currently cannot purchase insurance because they have a pre-existing condition. The Affordable Care Act fixes this policy, making it possible for all to purchase insurance to keep them and their families healthy."
Huntley, the state House's leading health care finance Democrat, said one of the impacts already has been allowing 32,000 young Minnesotans to remain on their parents' health insurance until they are 26 years old.
"For consumers purchasing insurance, they'll no longer have to worry about lifetime caps on coverage," Huntley said.
Democrats like Huntley trumpet health care exchanges the federal law requires. Exchanges, mostly on line marketplaces, would allow Americans to save money by buying insurance in a competitive atmosphere.
U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said the law will help for years: "Countless Minnesotans for generations to come will no longer have to suffer the burden of worrying about getting health insurance."