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Local candidates weigh in on last week's Supreme Court ruling.

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Thursday, July 05, 2012

No sooner had the Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act been released last week than our inboxes began filling up with press releases, as everyone from the AFL-CIO to the Libertarian Party to the Center for Reproductive Rights offered their take on what the decision will mean for their constituents and causes.

And then, of course, there were the politicians, who used the opportunity to remind voters where they stand on the sticky issue of healthcare—and, perhaps, to try to raise a little campaign jing in the process. Among the earliest to weigh in: the two challengers in the September Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District.

Bill Shein, the Berkshire County progressive activist and writer, used the moment to reiterate his support for deeper healthcare reform—specifically, the single-payer "Medicare for All" model.

While the president's healthcare program has it merits—chief among them, forbidding insurers from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, a practice Shein called "unconscionable"—its reforms don't go far enough, the candidate said: "[A]t the end of the day, the Affordable Care Act is reform built on top of a broken, expensive private health insurance system that diverts far too much of our health care spending into overhead and profits for insurance companies, without providing quality health and dental care for all. That remains unacceptable."

Shein called a single-payer system "the reform that provides high-quality health and dental care for all, contains costs, and disconnects health insurance from employment." He pointed to figures from Physicians for a National Health Care Program that say that a nonprofit, single-payer system would save $400 billion a year in healthcare costs. If elected, Shein said, he will sign on as a co-sponsor of the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act.

Meanwhile, the other challenger in the race, Berkshire Middle District Register of Deeds and former state senator Andrea Nuciforo, applauded the Court's ruling in a message to campaign supporters. "Residents of Western Massachusetts, and indeed across the country, demand and deserve affordable and accessible healthcare, and now they are free to have it," he said. "The decision to uphold this law will allow more coverage for families, insurance industry accountability and reduced costs for all Americans."

But the victory, Nuciforo continued, isn't guaranteed; shortly after the Court's ruling was released, he noted, House Republicans began mobilizing to repeal the healthcare act. "This call for attack shows that the Massachusetts First Congressional District needs someone that does not merely vote for healthcare reform, but has a core belief in it, and is willing to stand up and fight for it"—namely, himself. "Conversely, Richard Neal spent decades getting huge campaign contributions from the insurance industry, while I was working hard to sponsor a healthcare reform bill for Massachusetts," he continued.

Nuciforo included in his message a link to his campaign contribution page. "Can you donate on this historic day so I can go to Washington and defend this essential law?" he asked.

Neal, too, released a response to the ruling, saying that, as a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, he "worked closely with President Obama as he drafted the landmark Affordable Care Act." Neal said he "applaud[s] the Supreme Court for agreeing with Democratic leaders that children should not be denied health care because they were born with diabetes; working families should not face bankruptcy because of medical bills; young adults should not be denied a safety net; women's preventative health measures should not be sacrificed; seniors should not decide between buying medicine or putting food on the table.

"I am committed to providing health care to tens of millions of hard working families, small businesses, young adults, senior citizens, people with disabilities, and preventative care for women," Neal said.

 

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