- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 28, 2012

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Thursday upholding health care reform was a loss on policy but a victory for the Constitution, while across the Potomac in Maryland leaders said the ruling affirmed their decision to act quickly to implement the controversial law.

Mr. Cuccinelli, the conservative firebrand who sued the federal government immediately after Mr. Obama signed the overhaul into law, admitted he hoped the entire law would be struck down.

But he took solace in the high court’s opinion that the mandate requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance or face a penalty was beyond the bounds of the Commerce Clause and in the court’s ruling that nixed the federal government’s power to withhold states’ Medicaid funding if they refused to participate in an expansion of the program.

“The litigation is about liberty, not health care. On the health care policy today, our side mostly lost,” he said. “On the liberty side, we won. … It is, for those of us whose first priority is the preservation of the Constitution, not a bad day at all.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell ripped the law as “another major budget-busting imposition on the state of Virginia.”

Mr. McDonnell, a Republican, said he and other state officials are going to look at the decision more closely to decide the next steps for Virginia, with deadlines looming on planning for and setting up health insurance exchanges.

The legislature this year delayed taking action to implement an exchange until the court case was resolved.

Mr. McDonnell said Thursday it was too early to say whether he would call a special session to consider setting up an exchange.

“We’ve been doing some things to lay the foundations in Virginia so that if we have to comply with this monstrous mandate, we’ll find a way to do it and do it in a way that is least bureaucratic and least expensive and least cumbersome for the people of Virginia,” he said.

In a joint statement issued in Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley and Lt. Gov Anthony G. Brown said the high court with its ruling “chose to protect the lives of millions of Marylanders and millions of Americans.”

Mr. Obama’s marquee initiative has also enjoyed widespread support from day one among leaders in the District, which is dominated by Democrats.

“We are delighted that the Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act,” said D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who is traveling in China. “While the District already leads in access to care, we will continue moving forward to ensure every District resident has access to quality, affordable health care.”

Mr. Gray established the city’s Health Reform Implementation Committee in early 2011 to ensure a “smooth and rapid” roll out of the law. The city has been moving aggressively since then, so the District could begin enrollment in its health care exchange by fall 2013.

On Friday, a D.C. Council committee is scheduled to green-light Mr. Gray’s nominees to an executive board that will guide the exchange.

Mr. Obama’s reforms expanded the pool of Medicaid-eligible residents in the District, allowing adults without children and whose income is up to 200 percent of the poverty level to enroll under Medicaid. Before the ACA, childless adults could not be eligible for Medicaid without waiving provisions of the federal law.

Only about 5 percent of the city’s population is uninsured, because of aggressive efforts to cover residents under Medicaid or the D.C. Healthcare Alliance, which enrolls many immigrants who are not eligible for the federal insurance program, officials said.

In Maryland, leaders have wholeheartedly embraced the health care law since its passage. The heavily Democratic state is one of 14 states that have established exchanges through the legislature or by an executive order.

“Today’s decision gives considerable momentum to our health care reform efforts here in Maryland,” said Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Brown, both Democrats.

The General Assembly passed bills in 2011 and this year that set the framework for a health benefits exchange, which state officials say could provide health care access to as many as half of the state’s 700,000 uninsured residents.

By diving into health care reform, the state has already received $34.4 million in federal grants toward getting the exchange up and running and has allotted $26.5 million in the upcoming fiscal 2013 budget to support its implementation.

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