Ruling leaves execs unfazed
Tony HoltThe Supreme Court's ruling Thursday generated mixed reactions from legal analysts and politicians — but hospital executives insisted little has changed other than eliminating the uncertainty that had been hovering over the medical industry.
Published: June 29, 2012
Published: June 29, 2012
President Obama's health care overhaul, which he pushed for and ultimately signed in March 2010, was upheld by the nation's highest court by a vote of 5-4. It prompted local hospitals to assure patients of continued deliverance of quality care.
Meanwhile, politicians on the left considered the decision a victory and those on the right predictably spun it in a different direction.
Observers above the fray don't see the debate on the government's role in health care ending any time soon.
"At the end of the day, our hospitals in Hernando County have been focused on providing health care at costs that are reasonable," said Alan Levine, the Florida Group president for Health Management Associates, which is the parent owner of Spring Hill and Brooksville regional hospitals.
"Obviously, any legal decision helps reduce the uncertainty in the marketplace, which is good," Levine said. "The uncertainty had been problematic for all hospitals. The discussion now is going to shift to the political playing field, if you will, and we will have to see how it plays out in the November elections."
The court's 193-page majority opinion was released midmorning. The decision means the legal hurdles have been cleared for mostly everything outlined in the Affordable Care Act.
The law was designed to provide health insurance for more than 30 million uninsured U.S. residents.
Chief Justice John Roberts, appointed by President George W. Bush and considered a conservative, ruled with the majority. He equated the law's individual mandate with a tax and said Congress had the authority to impose it.
The "new tax" portion of the ruling is what Republicans will likely target during the election season.
It was pounced on by U.S. Rep. Richard Nugent, R-Brooksville, in a media statement released later in the day.
"The Supreme Court ruled today that although the federal government does not have the constitutional authority to force you to buy health insurance, it does have the authority to levy a tax penalty on you if you do not," Nugent said. "In other words, the federal government can't force you to do something, but they can compel you to do something through their power to tax you. In my mind, there is virtually no meaningful difference between those two."
While the political buzz continued to get louder during the day on cable news stations, talk radio and political blogs, health care companies across Florida remained diplomatic regarding the court's decision. The same went for representatives from Hernando County's three hospitals.
"We are focused on the ongoing mission to provide high-quality, patient-centric care, and we will work with all our stakeholders — clinicians, government authorities, community leaders and employees — to ensure the provision of this care continues smoothly," said Oak Hill Hospital spokesman Rich Linkul.
"(We) provide compassionate, high-quality care for our patients and nothing in today's ruling affects that," said Robin Schneider, a spokeswoman for Spring Hill and Brooksville regional hospitals.
Deborah Tracy, a local pain-management specialist, said the law has brought confusion and more expense for health care providers and patients alike.
She said absence of any medical liability reform in the law will lead to more trouble down the line.
"That's a big reason for the increasing costs in health care.
"I don't see anything that has improved since this law passed," she continued. "