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Thursday, September 18, 2014

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Jewish groups react to U.S. health-care ruling

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Rabbi David Saperstein

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court voted to uphold President Barack Obama’s landmark Affordable Care Act in a 5-4 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts voting in the majority.

The court upheld the most controversial provision of the law that required all American citizens to purchase health insurance or face a tax penalty. The court struck a provision that forced states to expand their Medicaid programs in order to cover health insurance for poverty-stricken individuals.

Jewish organizations generally praised the decision, while the Republican Jewish Coalition said it was “deeply disappointed.”

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Assembly, an international association of Conservative rabbis, praised the decision, saying, “All people deserve access to affordable and equitable health-care coverage, and we join other people of faith in their staunch desire for a U.S. health-care system that offers health, wholeness and human dignity for all,” she said.  

“The president’s vision is consistent with Jewish tradition, which is unambiguous about the requirement of a just and decent society to provide a basic level of health care,” Schonfeld added.  

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said 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.”

Hadassah said the ruling was “affirming our commitment to ensuring that all Americans have access to quality affordable health care.” The women’s group had signed an amicus brief supporting the Affordable Care Act.

The ruling was a “huge victory for women and families across the country,” National Council of Jewish Women CEO Nancy Kaufman said in a statement.

“The court’s ruling means insurance companies may not charge women higher premiums than men,” she said in her statement. “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.”

National Democratic Jewish Council president and CEO David Harris and chair Marc Stanley released a joint statement saying the group was “deeply gratified by today’s ruling.

“We are thankful that the court affirmed the core constitutionality of this landmark legislation that will bring health care to tens of millions more Americans,” they wrote.

In a statement praising the ruling, 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.

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

“We are proud that the United States has taken a major step toward guaranteeing health care for all,” RHR-NA said in its statement. “We applaud President Obama, the U.S. Congress and the Supreme Court for moving us significantly closer to this ideal of guaranteeing health care for all Americans.”

Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks in offering his disappointment on the ruling said in a statement, “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.”

The Orthodox Union told The CJN that it did not comment on the ruling.

– With files from Ha’aretz

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