Amid opposition from some members, Senate Republicans pulled legislation before session ended last week that would set up a state health-insurance exchange to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act. As Senate GOP leadership weighs whether to hold a vote when senators return for other business in the coming weeks, a federal appeals court in Cincinnati has upheld the health-care law passed under President Barack Obama.
It is the first federal appeals court ruling on health-care reform, which has been challenged in dozens of cases across the country, according to the Associated Press. The court said Congress has the authority to require that Americans have a minimum of insurance coverage. The conservative Thomas More Law Center, which is based in Ann Arbor, Mich., had argued that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional and Congress had overstepped its authority in passing it, the AP said. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel said the measure is necessary to help reduce the cost of health care and reform the system.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the leadership of the Democrat-controlled Assembly and GOP-led Senate had an agreement on setting up New York’s health exchange. The Assembly passed the bill 95-43, but the Senate ended the session without taking it up. Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, Putnam County, said earlier this week that he and some other GOP senators asked for the bill to be pulled. Ball said he opposes “doing anything that would bring about the implementation of ‘Obamacare.’”
The federal law requires that states set up health-insurance exchanges by Jan. 1, 2014 so individuals and small groups that need insurance will have a central “marketplace” where they can purchase it. Health-care and civic groups like the American Cancer Society and Citizen Action have urged lawmakers to pass state enabling legislation as soon as possible so New York can qualify for up to $100 million in federal funds to create the exchange. They said there is no guarantee the funds will still be there if New York gets a late start, and they have emphasized how much planning and work has to take place before Jan. 1, 2014.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, said this week that the legislation could be taken up in the next few weeks when the Senate returns to wrap up some unfinished business.
For states that don’t set up their own exchanges, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will step in and do it for them.
The Cuomo administration has vowed to continue working with the Senate to ensure the health-exchange legislation is passed.