Murkowski, Begich Split On Health Care Decision

Alaska’s members of Congress are reacting with mixed emotions to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the health care overhaul bill. The break down is along expected political lines.

Here’s a pretty straight forward illustration of how the two political parties are spinning the ruling.

“Anybody who says these are all going to be taxes? That’s just not accurate.” U.S. Senator Mark Begich said.

“This is a tax,” U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski said.

Begich and Murkowski tend to vote alike, but on issues as seismic as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as it’s officially known, they diverge.

The sticking point Thursday at the Court and in the halls of the Capitol was what it has been for the past couple of years: The requirement everyone purchase insurance or face a fee if they don’t; the so-called individual mandate.

Senator Begich contends the fee – or tax, to use Chief Justice John Roberts’ term – will only apply to a small portion of the population, those who can afford insurance, but choose not to buy it. Everyone else, he says, is covered through subsidies and government programs.

“No more freeloading. Personal responsibility, you have to take care of your health care. You have to take care of your coverage. And if you’re not getting coverage just because you don’t want to pay for it? You’re not getting a free ride anymore,” Begich said.

For her part, Senator Murkowski says the American public was duped by President Obama and Congressional Democrats into supporting the individual mandate.

“And understanding that this is a tax on you. And you’ve got no choice but to pay it. You’ve got no choice but to pay that tax or the IRS is going to come talk to you,” Murkowski said.

The Court struck down a provision requiring states to expand Medicaid roles, but other elements – less partisan ones – remain intact. Parents can include children up to 26 on their plans – a popular element of the law that the White House estimates 9,000 people in Alaska have benefitted from.

Congressional Republicans say they will push to repeal the bill. When and if that will ever happen remains unclear.  Representative Don Young says the House will vote yet again to repeal the health care bill. It’s already a passed a bill doing so that went nowhere in the Senate.

“Well the point is, very frankly, to show we’re not satisfied with the decision of the Court. I would have accepted it if they just threw out that one provision,” Young said.

Young says if the Court threw out the entire plan – which he would have preferred – it would have lent some gusto to the move to repeal the bill. But, he says it didn’t and that makes the repeal effort harder.

Senator Murkowski says there will be an effort to repeal the bill in the Senate, but she did not indicate when, or who would occupy the White House at the time of the vote.

Repeal the Bill has become a sort of rallying cry for conservatives. And the Chief Justice used another in his majority opinion – tax. Expect to hear a lot more of both of those toxic terms in the run up to November’s elections.

Download Audio