ESCANABA - A U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold President Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been met with mixed reactions from politicians and the local community.
U.S. Congressman Dan Benishek issued a statement commenting that the news is "devastating" for Northern Michigan and the rest of America.
"The promises the president made about his law have not come true," said Benishek. "He promised the law would lower costs, but it hasn't. He promised individuals would be able to stay on their current health care plan, but millions may lose their employer-provided insurance. He promised the law would improve the economy, but it hasn't."
Benishek said he feels the law needs to be fully repealed, which he said is the only opportunity to enact health care reforms the "right way."
"Health care is becoming prohibitively expensive for too many Northern Michiganders," said Benishek. "We have to fix that. But instead of passing a 2,700-page bill that no one understands, let's take our time and have an honest conversation with the American people about how best to answer our health care challenges."
He further stated he feels confident the House Majority will continue working to repeal the law.
State Rep. Ed McBroom also expressed his concerns with the decision. "I was disappointed in the decision," said McBroom. "I still think it's a really dangerous precedent with the government telling us what to buy."
He added he has spoken with many residents in the area, specifically senior citizens, who have been told by doctors they cannot dispense certain medications and they will have to go elsewhere because of the law.
McBroom also said members of the medical community he has spoken to are frustrated with what they can and cannot do by implementing the law as well, adding it feels like the law is getting "less and less" support.
"I continue to support full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and to have it replaced with care ... that's not government mandated," he said, commenting that reform is needed that will not restrict the volume of service while also increasing those who partake in it.
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin released a statement supporting the Supreme Court's decision, hailing it as a long overdue and important step toward universal health care coverage.
"It ensures that millions of Americans who have health insurance will be more able to depend on their coverage without fear of losing it to the whims of an insurance company," said Levin. "It ensures that millions more who do not have insurance today will not be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. And it ensures that millions of parents will be able to keep their children covered to age 26." He further stated he felt the decision will protect the interest of American families who have much to gain from health insurance reform.
Locally, the opinion on the decision was also mixed.
Tom Anderson, of Escanaba, felt the decision reached was a good one.
"I think it's great because there's so many people who can't afford health care and they will no longer have to just get patched up at the emergency room," he said. "It should save the government a lot of money."
Many others declined to comment since they were not entirely sure of the provisions of the law, while others declined to publicly comment on the issue, but felt the decision was not a positive one for the country.
A representative from OSF St. Francis Hospital & Medical Group said the decision was not surprising.
"It's not a surprise," said Lanna Scannell, manager of community and government relations at OSF. "It's something we've been preparing for since it was introduced a couple years ago."
Scannell said the way the law was outlined, OSF stood to lose approximately $50 million over the next 10 years, and that the law factored into their decision to pursue Critical Access Hospital (CAH) status under the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program. To qualify for CAH status, a hospital must be located in a rural community more than a 35-mile drive from another hospital, maintain no more than 25 inpatient beds, and a maximum annual average length of stay of four days. OSF has fulfilled all CAH criteria without having to downsize or make changes. Part of this reason for the pursuing CAH status was due to a lower demand for inpatient care, and increased outpatient care, noted Scannell.
Overall, she said the law will likely mean increased demand for hospital services.
"There's probably going to be 30 million more people now who will have insurance," said Scannell. "We think there will probably be an increased demand for services ... and probably a bigger push for wellness."