Opinions range from extreme optimism to grave dismay
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act has spurred a flurry of reactions, both locally and nationally.
The decision upholds the mandate that most Americans get health insurance or pay a penalty.
From politicians to insurance companies to organizations representing consumers and health professionals, many weighed in on a decision that will expand health coverage to more than 30 million Americans.
Congressman Bob Brady said the decision marks a victory for President Barack Obama and the American people.
“By upholding the Affordable (Care) Act they affirmed that President Obama and congressional Democrats were right, and the Act is constitutional. By upholding the individual mandate, they assured that more Americans will be covered than were before the Act was passed,” Brady said in an emailed statement.
“Moreover, insurance companies can no longer discriminate against patients with pre-existing conditions, and seniors will be able to afford the medicines they so desperately need. My only concern is that the Court removed the ability to ensure that states expand Medicaid to hard hit Americans like my constituents. We’ll have to keep working to improve on that provision.”
Bill Cruice, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, representing 5,000 registered nurses and health professionals, said the decision is a modest step in the right direction to address the nation’s health care crisis.
“It is a profound crisis of affordability for those individuals and families that have coverage on the individual market or through their employers,” said Cruice.
The phrase “health insurance” loses all meaning when accessing such insurance costs up to $5,000, $10,000 or more in out-of-pocket co-payments and deductibles. Too many families that work hard and play by the rules find themselves on the slippery slope to ruined credit and bankruptcy when simply confronted with a health misfortune.”
“While some of the ACA’s provisions would have applied a temporary Band Aid to this gaping wound, the fundamental problem in our health care is the dominance by a small handful of insurance and pharmaceutical conglomerates and profit-driven hospitals that have created a system that squanders billions of dollars on wasteful overhead and collections, and a system which prioritizes their exorbitant profits and executive compensation above all while ordinary Americans struggle to get the care they deserve,” Cruice added.
Independence Blue Cross President and CEO Daniel J. Hilferty said that while the law expands coverage to millions of Americans, it doesn’t adequately address the quality and cost of care.
“The law does not make great progress in improving patient care or lowering health care costs for our customers,” said Hilferty.
“What’s more, major provisions will raise costs for customers and disrupt coverage unless they are addressed.”
For instance, the penalty for failing to carry health insurance, beginning in 2014, will be as low as $95 per year. Hilferty said younger, healthier adults may choose to pay the penalty rather than obtaining costly insurance.
He also noted that beginning in 2014, restrictions in the law on how premiums are set would limit premiums for older adults, the larger users of health care, to no more than three times that of any other health care customer. Currently that range is about five or six to one.
“As a result, health experts say that individuals under 30 would see their premiums spike and many may choose not to buy coverage,” said Hilferty.
Councilwoman Marian Tasco, chair of City Council’s Public Health and Human Services Committee, lauded the Court’s decision.
“I personally know people who don’t have health care, and they can’t get the services that they need. I’m encouraged by the decision, and I think it was the right thing to do,” said Tasco.
Tasco says the ACA would benefit Philadelphians especially, by providing additional funding for the city’s 10 health centers which largely serve the uninsured.
NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock said the organization has long supported full implementation of the health care law.
“Access to quality, affordable health care is a civil and human right that should not be reserved for the wealthy or the few. The 32 million American men, women and children covered under this law can now breathe easier,” Brock said in a release.
“Many serious health issues are preventable. But far too often, patients who lack health insurance — especially patients of color — enter medical facilities late in the progression of their diagnosis. This sad reality is costing lives and costing American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary health care bills. States can now move forward in implementing health care reform with the knowledge that the Affordable Care Act is not going anywhere anytime soon.”
The National Medical Association, which represents African-American physicians, applauded the court’s decision.
“The ACA is working. More seniors can now afford their meds. Young people can stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26. Insurers no longer deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or drop people because they get sick. We are doing a better job of coordinating care, and we now have better prospects for preventing chronic disease,” said Dr. Cedric M. Bright, NMA president.
“This is our best opportunity in a generation to overhaul our health care system. We look forward to working with the states and the administration to ensure that the reforms are fully implemented,” he concluded.
Officials from Planned Parenthood referred to the act as the “greatest advance in women’s health in a generation. The law will provide access to birth control and cancer screenings without co-pays, direct access to OB/GYN providers without referrals and an end to charging women higher premiums and denying coverage for “pre-existing conditions.”
“At Planned Parenthood, we know how important this law and this decision are for women and families, because we see the need for affordable health care every day,” said Dayle Steinberg, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania.
“Women who come into Planned Parenthood health centers often struggle to balance paying for birth control and health services with paying for textbooks, groceries, or gas for the car. The Affordable Care Act will make those decisions easier for women across the country.”
While many hailed the Supreme Court’s decision, some were disappointed in the ruling.
Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Rob Gleason says the decision sets the stakes for the November election.
“The only way to save the country from Obamacare’s budget-busting government takeover of health care is to elect a new president,” Gleason said.
“Under Obamacare, President Obama’s signature legislation, health care costs continue to skyrocket, and up to 20 million Americans could lose their employer-based coverage.
Meanwhile, a panel of unelected bureaucrats now has the unprecedented authority to come between elderly patients and their doctors. Obamacare is simply wrong for America and wrong for Pennsylvania. We need market-based solutions that give patients more choice, not less. The answer to rising health care costs is not, and will never be, big government.”