June 29, 2012

Delegation reaction no surprise

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The reaction from Maine's congressional delegation members to Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the new Affordable Care Act largely mirrored their earlier stances on the law -- and, by extension, their party affiliation.

Maine's two Republican U.S. senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, called on Congress to either repeal or dramatically rewrite the law, which both voted against in December 2009 despite being lobbied heavily by Democratic lawmakers and President Barack Obama.

Snowe predicted the law will cost small businesses more money and dubbed the ruling "a victory for a massive legislative overreach, broad and expansive government, and its power to tax." Snowe was heavily involved in the Senate Finance Committee's early efforts to craft the health care law.

"The bottom line is, regardless of the court's decision, it is critical that Congress fully repeal the law so that we can go back to the drawing board," Snowe said in a statement. "Only then can we work together to enact workable reforms that would result in more competitive health insurance markets by expediting the ability of individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance across state lines."

Collins did not call specifically for repeal but predicted the law would drive up costs, harm health care choice and discourage businesses from hiring. Collins was pleased that the court sided with Maine and other states that had objected to portions of the law that would have forced states to expand Medicaid coverage to cover more uninsured people. The court held that states can opt out, even though the federal government would pay for much of the expanded coverage.

"In the wake of the Supreme Court's divided decision on this law, I continue to hope that Congress will work together to change the law substantially not only in response to the court's decision but also to respond to the very real health care concerns of the American people as well as the budget realities we face," Collins said in a statement.

Maine's two Democratic House members, both of whom face GOP challengers this November, embraced the ruling.

"While I have always said it is not a perfect law, the Affordable Care Act is a huge step forward in providing affordable access to health care for Mainers," U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, said in a statement.

"Now that this decision is behind us, I hope we can roll up our sleeves and concentrate on rebuilding our economy and putting Mainers back to work."

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, said the court sided with consumers instead of "big insurance companies."

"The Court made the right decision in preserving the basic consumer protections in the health care reform law -- like letting young people stay on their parents' policies or preventing insurance companies from cancelling your coverage when you get sick," Pingree said in a statement.

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