Southland hospitals welcome ruling, but questions abound
BY STEVE METSCH email@example.com June 28, 2012 10:24PM
Health care law survives — with Roberts’ help | PAGE 36
Updated: July 30, 2012 6:25AM
The ruling Thursday by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law will result in more people getting the medical care they need, Southland hospital operators say.
Business also figures to be good for Glenn Horton’s Orland Park-based insurance agency. But the so-called “Obamacare” package also could prompt employers to drop health care insurance as an employee benefit, he warned.
The mixed local reaction followed the court’s ruling that it’s legal to mandate that individuals carry health insurance.
From a small business point of view, Horton, who owns The Horton Group, which has 350 employees, can see both pros and cons.
“Is it a mixed bag? Very much so,” Horton said. “This means that there will be (potentially) 25 million new (health insurance) customers who will be paying more than they used to pay. It’s good for my business.
“But to us and to most businesses my size, I think it means our costs are likely to go up and the complexity of the situation will go up in the short term as well.”
Horton said “the $10 million question” is whether the ruling will cause employers to drop insurance as an employee benefit because of costs.
“What could happen is it gets so expensive for businesses that they’ll drop it because the ($2,000) penalty (per worker) inflicted on the employer for not having it is much less expensive than the cost of having insurance,” he said. “If there’s a big exodus of those who pay for it, things potentially could be worse than they are now. ... although typically, legislation or executive mandates lead to adjustments.”
Hospital operators, who have complained about low or no reimbursements for care provided to patients without insurance, were more encouraged by the ruling.
Mary Freyer, chief operating officer for Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, said, “As a hospital, we are in a position to provide services to our community, and it appears with this ruling we’ll be able to provide more services. That’s a positive for the community.”
While she noted “nothing is perfect,” Freyer was reluctant to note potential negatives, saying, “We are concentrating on the positives.”
Asked if the cost of health care will be affected, she said, “That remains to be seen. Reimbursements are always challenging for any hospital, and right now, we don’t know what the impact of this ruling will be (on reimbursements).”
In a prepared statement, Advocate Health Care executive vice president and chief medical officer Dr. Lee Sacks said the system is pleased with the ruling. Advocate Health Care’s 12 hospitals include Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn and South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest.
“As a faith-based, nonprofit health care provider, we are pleased with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision ... We have always supported efforts to increase health care coverage for more Americans and ensure greater access to care,” Sacks said.
“Now that the health reform law has withstood the Constitutional test, we look forward to tackling the biggest challenge facing the health system today — the rising cost of care. Our goal is to partner with the federal government to apply proven private-sector solutions to address the unsustainable Medicare program. ... We believe focusing on care coordination, prevention, early detection and education is critical to improving health outcomes and reducing costs.”
Under the law, those who are sick or have pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage.
“Those are all wins, along with children up to age 26 continuing to have coverage,” Advocate spokeswoman Stephanie Johnson said.