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Health care law upheld

Dr. Tarun Mullick meets with patient Sarah Tighe in his Geneva office Thursday.
Dr. Tarun Mullick meets with patient Sarah Tighe in his Geneva office Thursday.

Depending who you spoke to in Kane County on Thursday, the Supreme Court got it right in upholding President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, or it made the wrong call.

The justices, voting 5-4, said Congress has the power to make Americans carry insurance or pay a penalty. That requirement is at the center of the law, which also forces insurers to cover people with pre-existing health conditions. The court limited the law's extension of the Medicaid program for the poor by saying the federal government can't threaten to withhold existing money from states that don't fully comply.

Marcia Boyce, owner of Boyce Body Werks, an auto body repair shop with locations in Batavia and Naperville, said she was disappointed with the ruling.

"Something needs to be done about health care reform," Boyce said. "But I don't think this is the answer. There now will be additional taxes and costs to businesses and individuals."

She said rising health care costs continue to be a problem for businesses.

"Our health insurance costs went up 22 percent this year," Boyce said.

Boyce Body Werks pays for about 90 percent of its employees' insurance costs, she said.

Area chamber of commerce organizations, including the Batavia Chamber of Commerce, have not taken a stance on the health care law. Roger Breisch, executive director of the Batavia Chamber, said businesses at least have some direction now that the Supreme Court has made a ruling.

"Like it or not, at least now people can make decisions," Breisch said.

In reaction to the Supreme Court's ruling, Shannon Watson, executive director of the Tri City Health Partnership's free medical clinic in St. Charles, said her patients do not care about the politics of health care reform.

"Patients of Tri City Health Partnership are from both sides of the aisle; they are not worried about political rhetoric," Watson said. "Our clinic remains committed to providing quality health care to our patients, and we look forward to working with our policy makers to identify solutions that are best suited for the medically underserved in our community."

Since 2001, the Tri City Health Partnership clinic has served low-income residents of central Kane County who do not have Medicare or Medicaid or who are underinsured.

Dr. Tarun Mullick, a gastrointestinal health specialist who has a practice in Geneva, said he believes Obama is reaching too far in his attempts to reform the health care system.

"I have a belief to help all patients, no matter what their means," Mullick said. "I just don't believe this is the right way to do it. The government does not need to force these decisions. The free market is already doing them."

For example, he said, average-risk patients can receive a colonoscopy in an office setting rather than a hospital, which can save patients "thousands of dollars."

"This is how the free market can make health care affordable," Mullick said.

In reaction to the ruling, area hospitals and clinics reiterated their commitment to providing quality health care.

"While today’s Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act is important for the health care industry, our focus remains unchanged – delivering high-quality care through state-of-the-art technology, unwavering patient focus and seamless access to top-notch health care," stated Cadence Health, which operates Delnor Hospital in Geneva and Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield.

Sandra Bruce, president and CEO of Presence Health, which operates Provena Mercy Medical Center in Aurora, said Presence Health is "pleased" that access to affordable health care coverage will be available to all.

"Presence Health will continue on its course to follow all federal and state health care reform efforts," Bruce said. "We have made significant investments in Affordable Care Act implementation to enhance quality and expand access to care."

Dr. Anil Keswani, chief medical officer for Dreyer Medical Clinic, which has facilities throughout the area, said now that the Supreme Court has made its ruling, "We can move to where the country wants us to move."

"We want to continue to provide excellent care to patients and to do it in a cost efficient manner," Keswani said.

The issue of health care reform has becoming a polarizing issue this election year. U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, voiced his opposition to the ruling.

“Today, I’m disappointed for America," Hultgren said in a press release. "This entire law goes against American principles.

“Actions have consequences, we all know that. In this case, the court has ruled that the government can tax you not only for choosing an action – moving to a certain neighborhood, earning a certain amount or having a certain number of dependents – but for choosing inaction. This is unprecedented."

His Democratic opponent in the November election, Dennis Anderson of Gurnee, supported the Supreme Court's ruling.

"Opponents of the act have relied on a variety of scare tactics, ranging from ‘death panels’ to ‘socialism,' " Anderson said in a statement. "Implementation of the act will make care available to millions who have been locked out of the health care system and, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, will reduce the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars.”
The ruling frames the health care issue for this year's elections and is considered by many to be a victory for Obama. Chief Justice John Roberts, a Republican appointee, joined four Democratic-selected justices to give the president a majority on a law that has divided the country along ideological and partisan lines throughout his presidency.

Roberts, writing for the court, said Congress had the authority to impose the insurance requirement under its power to levy taxes.

While the federal government "does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance," Roberts wrote, "the federal government does have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance." The law "is therefore constitutional because it can reasonably be read as a tax."

Some parts of the law have already gone into effect, including provisions that close a gap in prescription-drug coverage under Medicare, allowing 2.5 million young adults to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26, and providing free mammograms, colonoscopies and flu shots.

• Bloomburg News contributed to this report.

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