The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Like country, ag groups split on health care ruling

The National Farmers Union and the American Farm Bureau Federation reacted along ideological lines today to the Supreme Court’s decision that President Barack Obama’s health care plan is constitutional, while the National Restaurant Association called for its repeal.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the plan’s individual mandate requiring citizens to carry insurance or pay a penalty is constitutional under Congress’s constitutional authority “to lay and collect taxes” to provide for “the general welfare of the United States.”

In a surprise to conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s four liberal justices, writing that the penalty for failing to carry insurance possesses “the essential feature of any tax,” producing revenue for the government, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The court had been expected to rule on whether the plan was constitutional under Congress’s constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce, but instead the taxing power was the issue that provided the majority ruling.

The court did find one part of the law unconstitutional, that the federal government can’t put sanctions on states’ existing Medicaid funding if the states decline to go along with the Medicaid expansion, the WSJ reported.

Roger Johnson

Roger Johnson
Roger Johnson, president of the Democratic-leaning National Farmers Union, praised the ruling.

“Farmers, ranchers and rural residents face significant barriers to obtaining accessible, affordable health care,” Johnson said.

“The [Affordable Care Act] contains significant, necessary reforms that help all Americans, including those who are self-employed and purchasing expensive care from the individual market, afford insurance and the preventive care they need; provides resources to rural health care providers and incentives to physicians serving in rural areas; bars health care companies from denying coverage to individuals with preexisting conditions; and closes the Medicare prescription drug coverage ‘donut hole,’” Johnson said.

Bob Stallman

Bob Stallman
Bob Stallman, president of the Republican-leaning Farm Bureau, called on Congress and Obama to address cost concerns of farmers, ranchers and small business.

“Farmers, ranchers and rural residents need affordable and accessible health care,” Stallman said. “We remain concerned that mandating individuals and businesses to buy insurance will impose an expense that creates economic hardship, particularly for self-employed individuals and small businesses.”

“We believe one of the primary goals of health care reform should be to reduce costs for participants,” he added. “The plan reviewed by the Supreme Court would impose a new financial burden on our members. As the legal and political interpretation of this ruling is further analyzed and debated in the weeks and months ahead, it is important to remember that access to affordable health care eludes many American families across the country.”

“Farm Bureau has always supported market-based reforms as the best way to control costs and increase options for people and small businesses that purchase insurance for themselves and their employees,” Stallman said.

Dawn Sweeney

Dawn Sweeney
The National Restaurant Association expressed “strong concern” about the decision.

“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court is troubling for restaurant operators and business owners across the country,” said Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the association. “We encourage Congress to continue efforts to repeal the law, since the court’s decision leaves the employer requirements in place, provisions which impact restaurant operators’ ability to grow and create jobs.”

Based on the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the law, employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees must offer “affordable” health insurance of minimum value to full-time employees and their dependents or pay penalties, the group noted.

“The cost of such coverage or the penalties could threaten the very slim profit margin on which most restaurants operate,” it added.

“This unworkable law cannot stand as is,” said Sweeney. “We need reform that addresses the increasing costs our members are faced with each year.”

Jane Delgado

Jane Delgado
The National Alliance for Hispanic Health said the ruling was “the right decision for America," said Jane L. Delgado, president and CEO of the Hispanic health advocacy group.

“Because of the court’s action, 33 million Americans, including millions who could not get health insurance because they had a chronic illness like diabetes, will gain care they need and families will have financial peace of mind,” Delgado said.


While groups raised concerns about rising health care costs, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said today that growth in health spending slowed or fell in real terms in 2010 in almost all OECD countries, including the United States, reversing a long-term trend of rapid increases, according to OECD Health Data 2012.

Overall health spending grew by nearly 5 percent per year in real terms in OECD countries over the period 2000-2009, but fell in Europe in 2010 and slowed in the United States, Canada and New Zealand to around 3 percent.

In 2010, health spending as a share of GDP remained by far the highest in the United States (17.6 percent of GDP), followed by the Netherlands (12 percent), France and Germany (11.6 percent), OECD said.

Political analysts said the decision today was a victory for Obama, but that it will put the health care debate front and center in the political campaigns and elections this fall.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
Obama said today that “whatever the politics, today’s decision was a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law and the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it.”

The president also said he realized that the debate has been divisive.

“We’ll work together to improve on it where we can. But what we won’t do — what the country can’t afford to do — is refight the political battles of two years ago, or go back to the way things were.”

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that while the court ruled that the law did not violate the Constitution, the justices did not take a position on whether it “is good law or that it’s good policy.”

“Obamacare was bad policy yesterday; it's bad policy today,” Romney said, pledged to repeal the law if elected. “Obamacare was bad law yesterday. It’s bad law today.”

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla. , said he was disappointed in the ruling.

“Families should have the freedom to make their own health care decisions, and Obamacare takes that freedom away, while in-turn costing our nation trillions of dollars without addressing our health care problems,” Lucas said.