Some local insurers think a court ruling that the federal government require people to buy health insurance is the best thing that could have happened in the case, while others are lukewarm in their reaction.
Jerry Pierce of Farmers Insurance in Havre said this morning that he doesn’t think mandated coverage — and the rest of the health care reform related to insurance — should go into effect.
“I think that’s wrong, ” Pierce said. “I agree with the decision. ”
But Brad Baldwin of Baldwin Insurance Associates said it is too early to make any calls on the ruling.
“I certainly don’t have an opinion at this point, ” Baldwin said. “I think a lot of other things have to change (before the health care reform goes fully into effect). ”
A three-judge panel of the federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals split in a ruling Friday, with two ruling that Congress overstepped its bounds when it passed the health reform bill by requiring all Americans to carry health insurance.
The health care reform requires all Americans to purchase health insurance, through their employers or on their own, or suffer tax penalties.
The majority, Chief Judge Joel Dubina and Circuit Judge Frank Hull, ruled that Congress cannot require citizens across the nation to pay for an expensive product for their entire lives.
In the dissenting opinion, Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus wrote that Congress generally has the constitutional authority to create rules regulating large areas of the national economy.
Obama’s administration is expected to request a review of the decision by the full 11th Circuit Court. The issue is likely to end up on the docket of the U. S. Supreme Court.
The Obama administration argued in the case that Congress’ power over interstate commerce gave it that authority. When people without health insurance use health care, driving up costs for people with health insurance, it impacts the national economy, the administration argued.
The decision is one in a series of ongoing legal battles on the issue. The federal appeals court in Cincinnati upheld the individual mandate in June, and an appeals court in Richmond has heard similar challenges to the law. Several lower court judges have also issued differing opinions on the debate.
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock declined last year to have Montana join the lawsuit, writing in a letter to Montana Republican legislators Sen. Robert Story Jr. and Rep. Scott Sales that he found no problems with the constitutionality of the law and that the timing of the lawsuit seemed to be politically motivated.
The Montana Legislature this year tried to force Bullock to join the lawsuit, but the bill was vetoed by Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
Pierce said he believes the end result of the mandate would be higher costs — the federal government doesn’t have enough money to put into the program.
“It’s just going to drive up the cost for the consumer, ” he said.
Pierce added that implementing the proposal would create a slippery slope — it could lead to the government implementing more and more regulations. He added that implementing the law would create more problems than it could solve.
“I dont think the health care system was broken so much as it (would) be in the future, ” he said.
Havre insurance agent Steve Mariani said he opposes insurance mandates in general.
“Any time they mandate, it takes the costs the wrong way, up not down” he said this morning. “You help a few, and, typically, make the rest pay. ”
He said that, as it is written, he doesn’t think the health care reforms passed by Congress can work. He also said he is not certain it could be changed to become workable.
“I think there’s some answers out there, but I don’t know what they are, ” he said.
Health care reform so far
• One federal appeals court has ruled that Congress has the right to require people to buy health insurance. On Friday, a second federal appeals court ruled that it does not. The case will almost certainly end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
• The major portions of the health care reform legislation will take effect in 2014, though some parts of it, such as a provision allowing people under 26 to remain on their parents' policies, has already taken effect.
• Republicans in the Montana Legislature passed legislation requiring Attorney General Steve Bullock to challenge the constitutionality of the reform legislation, but Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed it.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.