In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court has upheld as constitutional the heart of President Barack Obamas signature health care law, the individual mandate that most Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine. Chief Justice John Roberts provided the key swing vote with liberal justices in a 5-4 decision.
New York State health officials are moving forward with plans to establish an insurance exchange intended to help the more than 2.7 million New Yorkers without coverage, as called for in the Affordable Care Act, which was largely upheld Thursday in a highly anticipated decision by the Supreme Court.
Connecticut has also taken steps to establish a state insurance exchange.
In New Jersey, however, a law passed by the state legislature to set up a state exchange was vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie in May, who said he did not want to spend money on something that could be ruled unconstitutional.
Christie said Thursday that he was disappointed in the decision, but he did not say whether he would move ahead with a state exchange.
"I've been clear from the very beginning that I do not believe a one-size-fits-all health care program works for the entire country and that each governor should have the ability to make decisions about what works best for their state," Christie said. "The Supreme Court is confirming what we knew all along about this law - it is a tax on middle-class Americans."
Meanwhile, some in the area were celebrating the decision.
"It's really not melodramatic to say that lives are going to be profoundly affected for the better," said Dr. Daniel Baxter, top medical officer for the William F. Rayn Community Health Network in New York City. "This means that children are going to be able to get their immunizations, women are going to be able to get appropriate cancer screening, people with diabetes are going to be treated."
In April, Gov. Cuomo issued an executive order to establish the statewide exchange, where individuals and small businesses could tap up to $2.6 billion in federal tax credits and subsidies under President Obama's national health care overhaul.
Under Cuomo's order, issued after legislation to establish the exchange stalled in the Republican-controlled state Senate, health officials are planning to show by January that the state is ready to participate in the program. Health Department spokesman Peter Constantakes says the goal is to have the exchange operating on Jan. 1, 2014.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said his office stands ready to enforce the law to ensure New Yorkers benefit from its protections, calling the court's decision a "historic victory" for millions of Americans.
"This law will continue to provide a spectrum of key consumer protections including keeping young adults on their parents' plans, ending pre-existing condition restrictions and increasing consumer information about health care choices," he said.
Connecticut has hired staff and a board of directors to begin implementing health care exchanges and have them in place by the 2014 deadline set by the federal law. The state already is allowing people under 26 years old to stay on their parents' health insurance policies, which is part of the federal law.
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