Pennsylvanians react to Supreme Court decision

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Moments after the Supreme Court announced its decision on health care today, Jeanette Trauth of Churchill said she was "stunned and overwhelmingly happy."

She joined a chorus of voices -- on Capitol Hill, Twitter, Facebook, SCOTUSblog and across Southwestern Pennsylvania -- that offered their opinions on that of the court, which ruled 5-4 to uphold the law's individual mandate and most of its key provisions.

Heralded as a victory for President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats, the court's decision means Medicare discounts, expanded coverage for young adults and guaranteed insurance for those with pre-existing medical conditions are allowed to stand.

Pittsburghers react to health care decision

David Herring, University of Pittsburgh School of Law professor, and others react to the U.S. Supreme court's decision upholding President Obama's health care law. (Video by Brian Batko, Nate Guidry and Carl Romanos; 6/28/2012)

PG VIDEO

It is this last provision that Ms. Trauth cares about most. Her son was diagnosed ten years ago with Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disorder, and she worried that insurers would deny him coverage if the law were overturned.

Without insurance, his medical costs would exceed $4,000 each month.

"I'm very grateful to the court for seeing the importance of this issue to thousands of people," she said this afternoon. "The decision just took my breath away. I haven't had a chance to talk to my son yet, but I'm sure he's going to be thrilled, too."

In its decision, the court found that the individual mandate was not justified by Congress' powers to regulate interstate commerce. But in reasoning read by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the court said the penalty is a tax and therefore not unconstitutional. The tax will begin to be collected in 2015.

Insurance companies Aetna and the Pittsburgh-based Highmark released statements Thursday afternoon that said the decision would not affect their business strategy or commitment to health reform. Aaron Billger, a spokesperson for Highmark, said the cost of care remains a serious issue for the health care industry.

For Georgeanne Koehler of Bloomfield the court's decision is bittersweet.

In 2007, her brother was told he needed to replace his implantable cardioverter defibrillator, the device that kept his heart from beating irregularly. But he could not afford the replacement without insurance -- and no insurance company would grant him coverage because of his pre-existing heart condition.

Her brother was discharged from the hospital without a new defibrillator on Dec. 15, 2007, Ms. Koehler said.

A year and a half later, on March 7, 2009, he suffered cardiac arrest and died. He was 57.

"Today is a great day for America," she said after the court's decision was announced. "I am just overjoyed because now what happened to my brother can't happen to anybody else."

After his death, Ms. Koehler fought against the repeal of the health care law, appearing before legislators at the House Education and Workforce Committee health care hearing in Butler this March to tell her brother's story.

Many critics of the law remain steadfast in their opposition, with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney campaigning on a promise to undo it if elected and several others calling for a repeal.

Camp Hill general surgeon Bret DeLone said this afternoon the court's decision has motivated him to join the Romney campaign.

He is disappointed in the court's choice to uphold an act that he believes will spell economic disaster, he said, adding that a Romney win in November would be a striking referendum on the law.

The court did limit one part of the law, a provision asking states to comply with Medicaid eligibility requirements or risk losing their funding. The court said that states could only lose new funds if they did not comply with the requirements, not all of their funding.

In one of the day's more surprising twists, Chief Justice Roberts became the swing vote in the decision, joining the court's more liberal members. The expected swing vote, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined the three more conservative members in dissent.

nation - breaking - region - health

Nikita Lalwani: nlalwani@post-gazette.com. First Published June 28, 2012 5:00 AM


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