THE FUTURE of American healthcare will be a key battleground in the run up to this year’s presidential election, after the US Supreme Court waved through the controversial Affordable Care Act yesterday.
Republicans had hoped the court would deem part of the bill, which is dubbed Obamacare, to be unconstitutional – a decision that would have thrown its progress into turmoil.
Yet by a narrow vote of 5-4 the court said that the legislation’s individual mandate, intended to force Americans to buy health insurance, was constitutionally valid because penalising people without insurance would count as a tax.
Following the announcement, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said: “What the court did not do on its last day in session, I will do on my first day if elected President – that is to act to repeal Obamacare.”
Attacking the policy as being set to add trillions of dollars to the US government’s mammoth debt, Romney concluded: “If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we’re going to have to replace President Obama”.
Yet observers said that even if they lost the White House, Democrats would still be likely to have enough votes in the Senate to prevent the legislation being quashed.
In such an event, Republicans could seek to delay and erode Obamacare by targeting smaller elements of the bill. Fiscal sections – involving tax and spend decisions – could be outvoted, the Cato Institute in Washington DC told City A.M.
In the event of a Barack Obama victory in this November’s elections, the bill will progress in 2013, yet much of its components remain unpopular and will provoke more debate.
“Today’s decision was a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law,” President Obama said yesterday.
“The highest court in the land has now spoken. We will continue to implement this law and we’ll work together to improve on it where we can,” Obama added.
Stocks in US hospital firms shot up after the Supreme Court’s verdict. HCA Holdings closed up more than 10 per cent and Community Health Systems was up more than eight per cent. Yet some insurers sank, with Aetna ending down 2.7 per cent at $39.85 last night.