Supreme Court Ruling is a Blow to Patients, Taxpayers in Washington State

Contact: John Barnes
206-937-9691
jbarnes [at] washingtonpolicy [dot] org

Seattle – Today’s Supreme Court ruling upholding most of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) and interpreting the individual health insurance mandate as a tax is bad news for patients and taxpayers, said Washington Policy Center health care analyst and retired heart surgeon Dr. Roger Stark today.

Dr. Stark, who co-founded the open-heart surgery program at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, is the author of the recently published book The Patient-Centered Solution, Our Health Care Crisis, How It Happened, and How We Can Fix It.

“The court has spoken and the health care law stands,” Dr. Stark said. “But most Americans oppose this law, and most Washingtonians oppose the individual mandate. They believe, rightly, that the law will result in higher costs, fewer choices, and worse care for them and their families.” A recent KING 5 poll of 500 residents throughout Washington state found 64% of respondents opposed the individual health insurance mandate, and nearly half dislike the entire ACA.

“Today the Supreme Court did in fact find that the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution does not grant Congress and the President authority to force Americans to purchase health insurance,” Dr. Stark pointed out. “But a majority of justices interpreted the mandate as a tax, making this one of the largest tax increases in American history.”

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the ACA will cost taxpayers $1.1 trillion over the next ten years, while the current national debt is nearing $16 trillion and annual federal budget deficits are more than $1 trillion. Today’s ruling darkens an already dim fiscal outlook for taxpayers.

In addition to recommending Congressional action to repeal the ACA, legalize the interstate purchase of health insurance, turn Medicaid into a block-grant program for the states, and change the tax code to allow individuals to deduct their health expenses, Washington Policy Center recommends a number of state-level reforms:

  • Refrain from opting in to the ACA’s Medicaid expansion without first fully understanding the long-term impacts on an already tenuous state budget outlook.
  • Reform our state’s nascent health insurance exchange so it offers a true range of options instead of just a few narrowly-defined plans.
  • Remove government barriers that block health care choices.
  • Repeal mandates that force people to pay for coverage they don’t want or need.
  • Strengthen safety net programs for those who can’t afford care.
  • Incentivize patients to control their own health care dollars.

Additional resources

The Impact of National Health Care Reform on Washington State, WPC study by Dr. Roger Stark.
Health care reform chapter from Policy Guide for Washington State (4th edition, 2012).
Washington Policy Center’s 10th Annual Health Care Conference – SeaTac, July 10.
Conclusions from today's 5-4 Supreme Court opinion, by Jason Mercier.