By Brittany Jablonsky, NFU government relations representative

On Thursday the Supreme Court released its ruling on the constitutionality of the health reform law passed in 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In a 5-4 decision, the Court upheld the ACA in its entirety, with the exception of the provision giving the federal government power to withhold Medicare funding from states if they do not expand their Medicare coverage as outlined in the law.

Although the Court ruled on the law overall, the ruling dealt primarily with one of the more controversial parts of the law, the “individual mandate” to carry health insurance coverage by 2014 or pay a penalty. ACA challengers maintained that the individual mandate was unconstitutional under a section of the Constitution referred to as the Commerce Clause. Five Justices agreed with that assessment and found the mandate unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause; however, a different set of five Justices argued that the mandate is constitutional under the federal government’s power to tax its citizens, thereby upholding the individual mandate. To read more analysis and comprehensive plain-English interpretations of the ruling, visit SCOTUSblog.

Yesterday’s ruling was a win for U.S. farmers and ranchers. NFU’s policy has maintained support for the law because of its potential to lower the cost of obtaining health insurance for farmers and ranchers, provisions barring health care companies from denying coverage based on a pre-existingcondition, tax credits for those who are self-employed and can’t afford to purchase insurance from the expensive individual market, elimination of copays for preventive care, elimination of the Medicare prescription drug benefit “donut hole,” and incentives for physicians to practice in rural, underserved areas. NFU’s official statement on the ruling can be found here.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s immediate reaction to the ruling was to schedule a vote to repeal the ACA on July 11. The House first voted to repeal the law in January 2011, one of the first votes scheduled by the new Republican leadership of the 112th Congress. Incidentally, the House Agriculture Committee had already scheduled its markup of the 2012 Farm Bill on July 11, which will now conflict with the ACA repeal vote. Although no announcement rescheduling the markup has yet come from the Committee, it’s not unlikely that this overlap was intended to delay the farm bill even further. It is disheartening to think that the House Republican leadership would rather take time out of a shrinking legislative calendar to rehash old fights on a bill that was signed into law more than two years ago and is now affirmed to be constitutional by our country’s highest court than put its energy toward work on a strong, bipartisan farm bill and other forward-thinking legislation.

America’s farmers and ranchers don’t have time for petty political games – they’re too busy planting, growing, and harvesting the food that feeds our nation. It’s time for Congress to take its cue from rural America, move on, and get to work on a farm bill before the Sept. 30 deadline.

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