UI medical experts say health care debate to continue

BY ERIC LIGHTNER | JUNE 29, 2012 6:30 AM

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Even though the U.S. Supreme Court's ruled Thursday to uphold the Affordable Care Act, University of Iowa medical experts say the health-care debate is far from over.

"I'm sure that the debates that are highly contentious are going to continue," said Keith Mueller, professor and head of health management and policy in the College of Public Health.

The Supreme Court upheld most of the Affordable Care Act, including the mandate requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance. President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law March 23, 2010.

"… The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act — the name of the health-care reform we passed two years ago," Obama said in a statement. "In doing so, it has reaffirmed a fundamental principle that here in America — in the wealthiest nation on Earth — no illness or accident should lead to any family's financial ruin."

The law will give more coverage but could result in cuts in direct funding to hospitals, said Denice Connell, the director of community relations at Mercy Hospital, 500 E. Market St.

"We believe that the hospitals will face $155 billion in cuts across the country," she said.

Jean Robillard, the UI vice president for Medical Affairs, said the UI medical campus has been adapting its policy for a while.

"For the last two to three years, we've been getting ready for this," he said.

Connell said she believes there will be 11,000 more people in the southeastern Iowa area that will now be covered by health insurance under the legislation.

Both medical campuses agreed it is better that there is more certainty regarding the law but believe the health-care debate will continue to evolve.

"It is important that we have some certainty now and can continue to move forward," Mueller said.

Iowa politicians weighed in on the debate as well Thursday afternoon, offering mixed reactions on the ruling.

"Today, the Supreme Court handed down a disastrous decision to uphold President Obama's destructive health-care law, which means a future of higher costs, higher and increasing debt for Iowans," Gov. Terry Branstad said.

Local Iowa Democrats praised the Affordable Care Act and the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the legislation in its entirety.

"This is a great day for uninsured Iowans and for everyone struggling to pay health-care bills," Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said in a press release.

The ongoing debate may have a major effect on future elections, but Mueller said it's good for the medical campus that at least some of the law stayed in place, referring to Title Four of the legislation, which provides funding to community transition programs the UI Carver College of Medicine uses.

Michael Mahoney, the vice president of Go Health — an online health-insurance comparison company — said the ruling will increase business for insurance agencies, consumer shopping, and comparison companies.

"It's certainly one that's going to increase the number of consumers that we can touch," he said.

The law also pertains directly to people under 26 who can now stay on their parents medical insurance, Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky said in a press release following the ruling.

"Today was an unequivocal victory for the American people," Dvorsky said. "By virtue of President Obama's bold leadership, 18,000 Iowans under 26 can now stay insured."

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