Local Reaction Mixed on Court's Health Care Ruling
In a high-stakes decision that affects every American, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, derisively referred to as “Obamacare” by its critics, is constitutional.
The court voted 5-4 to uphold the law, with Chief Justice John Roberts providing the swing vote.
Considered one of the most important high court rulings in years, the decision produced mixed reactions from area health care officials and physicians. Retired pediatrician Dr. David Bruton said the ruling represented “a good day” for democracy.
“The ruling is good for medicine, for physicians and for patients,” said Bruton, a former secretary of health and human services under North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt. “Roberts did America a big favor with his vote, and I am very pleased with the court’s decision.”
Bruton said that he hopes the decision will help erase the “big lie” perpetrated by critics that the law will raise the price of health care.
“Health care costs too much in America, and it’s not producing the value or the results that others are getting for a lot less money,” he said. “We’ve got to reduce these costs and improve the quality of care. That’s what the Affordable Care Act is all about.”
Bruton said he believes the public has a “huge misunderstanding” of what the law is really about.
“To better understand this law, I would encourage everyone who doesn’t have a good understanding of the Affordable Care Act to try to learn what’s going on. It’s going to require reading, studying, listening and time.”
The decision was one of several that experts believed the justices might consider. Those included letting the law remain unchanged, removing the mandate that all individuals must purchase health insurance or pay a penalty, which the ruling preserved as a tax, or deciding that the act in its entirety was unconstitutional.
The final decision would have caused legislators to begin considering healthcare reform once again from the beginning.
David J. Kilarski, CEO of FirstHealth of the Carolinas, issued the following statement on the ruling.
“FirstHealth, along with hospitals across the nation, has been awaiting the decision from the Supreme Court on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” he said. “Providers have been preparing for the law for the past two years, and this decision clarifies the direction of our health system.
“In theory, any decision would have had no bearing on our current quality and cost-savings initiatives. There are some changes to the Medicaid portion of the law. We will work with our state and national associations as that part of the ruling is analyzed and determine if there are implications for FirstHealth.”
Former FirstHealth CEO Charles Frock said that he found Thursday’s ruling “a little” surprising.
“I think the decision will have relatively little impact on FirstHealth,” he said. “Despite the court’s ruling, the underlying issues involved with health care reform are not going away. In light of the politicalization of the issue, changing the bill or starting over will not take place until after the election.”
Proponents of the act argue that insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, among other perks, while opponents believe that the law would cause health care costs to rise due to billions in new taxes levied on drug companies. The act also provides exemptions to the individual mandate based on one’s religious beliefs or financial hardship.
Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, whose 2nd District now includes Moore County, has been a vocal opponent of the health care reform law.
“Today, the Supreme Court verified that Obamacare is a tax — one that increases the financial burdens on every American by $500 billion and will go down in history as the most significant expansion of government power over the lives of its citizens,” Ellmers said in a statement. “This law has and continues to be bad policy for all Americans and future generations.
“I respect our judicial system and the legislative process by which our nation is governed but am deeply concerned with what this means for the future of our country. Today’s decision by the Supreme Court sends a direct message to Congress and policy makers that we have to get back to work to repeal this law and replace it with effective, efficient reforms.”
Ellmers was a registered nurse for more than 21 years before being elected to Congress in 2010. She ran for office primarily on her opposition to the health care law.
The legislation was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. It passed the Senate on Dec. 24, 2009, by a vote of 60–39, with all Democrats and two Independents voting for the law while all Republicans voted against it.
The bill passed the House of Representatives on March 21, 2010 by a vote of 219–212, with 34 Democrats and all 178 Republicans voting against.
Contact John Lentz at (910) 693-2479 or email@example.com.
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