Jewish groups largely applaud health care ruling

American Jewish groups—with the notable exception of the Republican Jewish Coalition—were largely satisfied with the U.S. Supreme Court’s vote to uphold President Obama’s landmark Affordable Care Act in a 5-4 vote.

Nancy Kaufman, CEO of the National Council for Jewish Women, was “thrilled” with the decision. 

“As a Jewish woman who believes strongly that comprehensive, quality affordable health care is essential to women’s well-being and their health and their economic security, this is a terrific outcome,” Kaufman told JTA.

However, Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, emphasized in a news statement that the law’s “negative effects … on the economy, on jobs, on medical research and development, and on the quality of health care in America are very troubling.”

He added, “The American people will have the opportunity to express their opinion on the wisdom of Obamacare in this election year.”

The high court upheld the most controversial portion of the law, ruling that the individual mandate that requires all Americans to purchase health insurance or face a penalty was constitutional. It also indicated that the individual mandate of requiring Americans to buy insurance was constitutional as a tax. That mandate does not go into effect until 2014. 

However, the court ruled that the provision forcing states to expand eligibility in their Medicaid programs was unconstitutional. It said the federal government cannot threaten to remove Medicaid funding from states that do not participate in expanding Medicaid eligibility. 

Many observers were surprised that Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, joined the court’s liberal wing, voting with Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor in upholding the law. 

Justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito voted in the minority.

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said in a news statement that he was “elated” with the ruling.

Reform congregations, he said, have been “at the forefront of advocacy on behalf of health insurance reform in their states and at the national level.” He cited Maimonides, noting that the medieval scholar “placed health care first on his list of the 10 most important communal services that a city should offer its residents.”

Rabbis Julie Schonfeld and Gerry Skolnik, the executive vice president and president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, said in a statement that the decision puts the country “significantly forward on a moral path, and the members of the Rabbinical Assembly will continue to promote a system of health care that is inclusive, affordable, accessible and accountable.”

Rabbis for Human Rights-North America also applauded the decision, saying in a statement that “it is our moral duty to provide health care for all.”

Alan van Capelle, CEO of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, offered a personal remembrance of when he was a child and his father lost his job, “and my family was afraid we might not be able to afford health insurance.”

“Today’s ruling means that millions of families will never again have to endure this kind of fear,” van Capelle wrote in a statement.

Some Jewish organizations focused on what they said was gender-based discrimination by health insurance companies. They claimed that some companies charged higher rates for women. 

With that in mind, NCJW supported the Affordable Care Act provisions that assisted women with affordable preventive services and ended gender-based discrimination by health insurance plans. 

The law also allows for preventive services for women such as mammograms and prenatal screenings without co-pays. 

Marcie Natan, the national president of Hadassah, said in a news statement that her organization “recognizes that lack of coverage compromises the health and economic well-being of millions of uninsured individuals, as well as our nation as a whole.” 

Likewise, Mark Olshan, associate executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, said, “We have long supported a comprehensive health care reform and we were obviously quite pleased that it came out this way.” 

Going forward, various Jewish organizations will focus their advocacy efforts on implementation issues. 

Kaufman added that NCJW will continue to ensure that the government implements the law. 

“Obviously we’re going to be monitoring this very closely and ensuring that the law of the land is upheld,” Kaufman said. 

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives intends to vote on a repeal of the law on July 11 after its members return from their Fourth of July recess. 

Regardless of that possibility, David Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, emphasized that the decision will play well with American Jews for President Obama in the 2012 presidential election. 

“The American Jewish community is clearly supportive of so much of Obamacare, just as a broad majority of Jews support President Obama’s domestic agenda,” Harris said in a statement to JTA. He said the court’s decision “will remind Americans and American Jews why they’ve supported the president all along.”

HEALTH CARE DECISION — Jews Respond: Nancy K. Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women

“The US Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a huge victory for women and families across the country. This ruling means that women, seniors, children, young adults, the poor – in fact, the vast majority of the population—will reap the benefits of ACA and this historic ruling for years to come. NCJW fought hard to win enactment of the ACA and joined two amicus briefs in support of its legality. We are deeply gratified to see it upheld by the court.

“The court’s ruling means insurance companies may not charge women higher premiums than men. It means a wide range of preventive services important to women will be provided without co-pays or other out-of-pocket expenses, including mammograms, Pap tests, a wide range of prenatal screenings, well-woman visits, the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives, lactation consultations and supplies, and domestic violence screenings.

“Those with pre-existing conditions will no longer be denied insurance coverage – a provision with special significance for women, who have been denied coverage because of a previous Caesarean section or because they have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault and received related treatment.

“The decision also preserved the expansion of Medicaid to millions of poor families, though states will have the option to implement it. NCJW is optimistic that state lawmakers will understand the value of providing critical health coverage to low-income women and families and will choose to expand coverage accordingly.

“The Affordable Care Act means that no family will suffer bankruptcy due to high medical bills, and that all families will have access to routine, chronic, and emergency health care. Perhaps most important, it means that no one will die for lack of health insurance, as did an estimated 40,000 people every year prior to ACA’s enactment.”

HEALTH CARE DECISION — Jews React: Chief executive officer of Bend the Arc

“This is a huge win for the American people,” said Alan van Capelle, chief executive officer of Bend the Arc, a Jewish social justice organization. “The Supreme Court has validated the ACA [Affordable Care Act].”

The court’s decision is good news for everybody, including the Jewish community, Capelle said. “The Jewish population is not immune to poverty, and there are many Jews in this country who are living just above the poverty line, so our community is affected in the same way that every other community is affected,” he said.

Instating the health care law will also lead to a more equitable distribution of medicine that reflects Jewish values, Capelle believes. “Jewish law, practice, has always considered health care a communal responsibility,” he said.

HEALTH CARE DECISION — Jews React: Beverly Hills cardiologist and internist

Beverly Hills cardiologist and internist Dr. Reed Wilson – a former member of the Republican Jewish Coalition who helped found its Los Angeles chapter – called the mandate “an amazing breach of the American trust.” Moreover, he said, the law’s finer print contains “rules and regulations” pertaining to doctor reimbursement rates that will threaten physicians’ private practices and health care quality.

“I want to be able to take care of my patients in a way that I think is wise medicine, is good quality medicine. I don’t want to be subjected to rules that I think are detrimental to my patients,” Wilson said.

But “the Supreme Court decision is one we are going to have to live with,” he added.

The Republican Jewish Coalition released a statement shortly after the decision came down, expressing disappointment: “The serious negative effects this law will have on the economy, on jobs, on medical research and development and on the quality of health care in America are very troubling.”