From hospitals to insurance organizations and candidates for -- and members of Congress -- Thursday's reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on President Obama's health care plan was mixed.
U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins and U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, both Kansas Republicans, were disappointed in the justices' ruling that upheld the controversial law. Meanwhile, Mercy Health System, which has a hospital in Fort Scott, said the ruling validates what the health care provider has been doing all along.
The decision preserved the largest expansion of the nation's social safety net in more than 45 years, including the hotly debated core requirement that nearly everyone have health insurance or pay a penalty. The aim is to extend coverage to more than 30 million people who now are uninsured, the Associated Press reported.
The decision meant the huge overhaul, still taking effect, could proceed and pick up momentum over the next several years, with an impact on the way that countless Americans receive and pay for their personal medical care, AP reported.
The decision should help hospitals by adding millions of people to the rolls of the insured, expanding the pool of health care consumers. But by the same reasoning, insurance companies will also gain millions of premium-paying customers, AP reported.
The court found problems with the law's expansion of Medicaid, but even there it said the expansion could proceed as long as the federal government does not threaten to withhold states' entire Medicaid allotment if they don't take part, AP reported.
The nation's sixth-largest Catholic health care provider, Mercy said in a statement that it has always worked to meet the health care needs in the communities it serves, regardless of a patient's ability to pay. Thursday's decision related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will complement that mission, the statement said.
"The Supreme Court decision to uphold the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act validates what Mercy has been doing all along," Mercy President and CEO Lynn Britton said. "The founding of Mercy was based on the availability of health care for all -- especially the poor and underserved. We look forward to working with state and federal government leaders on building and implementing a model to care for the most vulnerable members of our society."
Many of Mercy's initiatives are core parts of the Affordable Care Act and they will proceed. These include:
* Streamlining the care process with the help of electronic medical records
* Improving access to specialists through telemedicine
* Structuring new organizations through integration with physicians
* Focusing on the patient in coordinating care across the spectrum of health providers and settings
* Improving efficiency through supply chain management
Mercy has been preparing for and working toward health care reform for a long time and will continue to do so, the statement said.
Jenkins and Moran still think the law is a bad idea.
"Today (Thursday) the United States Supreme Court released its landmark ruling on President Obama's Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Contrary to President Obama's argument when he was seeking to pass the bill, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the individual mandate at the heart of the act was a tax and thus was constitutional. As a result, the law was largely upheld," Jenkins said in a statement.
"When the PPACA was being debated, I stated that I felt this was bad policy that would lead to fewer jobs, more debt, higher health care costs, and reduced access to quality care in our rural areas," Jenkins said. " ... Our health care system is in need of significant reforms, but these reforms must address the problems of cost.
"It is my expectation the House will immediately get back to work on addressing the major issues that face our health care system. First and foremost, we must repeal the PPACA. Then, as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, I am anxious to get to work on passing sound, common sense legislative reforms that will put patients -- the consumers of health care -- in charge," Jenkins said.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas was more neutral on the subject saying it will continue working to implement the law and educate members on what it means to them, something it's been doing since the legislation was signed in March 2010. "We also will continue to work with state and federal regulators, and contracting health care providers to ensure that Kansans have affordable health insurance and high-quality health care. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas will continue to be the company that Kansans trust to help them through this time of change," the statement said.
Democrat Tobias Schlingensiepen, running for Jenkins' congressional seat, liked the ruling.
"I am pleased the Supreme Court recognized that health care is not about politics, but about ensuring families get the preventative services and the health care they need. I believe that safeguarding the health of Americans is a moral priority. I am hopeful that with today's decision, we can now unite to realize a better quality of health for all Americans," Schlingensiepen said.
Sen. Moran said the law can be considered constitutional, but still be a bad idea. Like Jenkins, he recommended repeal.
"I continue to believe that the health care reform law jeopardizes access to quality health care for many Americans, threatens the survival of Kansas communities, and stifles our country's job growth through higher taxes and burdensome regulations," Moran said.
"The right direction for our country is for Congress to repeal this unsound law and enact targeted reforms that will actually drive down health care costs and strengthen access to quality care," he said.
I remain committed to replacing this damaging law with commonsense policies the American people support."
The Kansas Catholic Conference said it takes no position on the specific constitutional questions decided by the court, however, its decision has the "extremely undesirable effect of leaving in effect certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act that are gravely immoral," such as allowing federal funds to pay for elective abortions and for plans that cover such abortions.
Also, failing to protect conscience rights and making possible the HHS mandate to force religious and other employers to cover sterilization, contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health insurance plans, even when it violates their deeply-held religious beliefs, the release said. "These policies must not stand," the KCC statement said. "The Catholic Church has long advocated health care for all, especially the poor and the vulnerable. However, health care must be life-affirming, and cannot come at the cost of our religious freedom."
Lawsuits appealing the HHS "contraceptive mandate" remain in effect and will continue to be pursued with the utmost vigor, the statement said.
Meanwhile, the release said, "we once again call upon Congress and the President to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the conscience rights and religious freedom of all Americans are protected, and to ensure that public funds are never used to subsidize abortion."