The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

Reaction to health care act is fast and furious


By JOHN ROCHE & R.J. MARX

Politicians and health care professionals throughout the area reacted to last week’s Supreme Court decision validating key aspects of the Affordable Health Care Act. With a close congressional race ahead and key related votes on the horizon in the New York State Assembly, the court’s ruling to uphold the health care act was cheered by some in this area, while disheartening others.

Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney, who defeated Dr. Richard Becker and three other hopefuls last week in the 18th congressional district primary, saw this as a victory for the middle class.

Republican Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, however, said that if she were re-elected in November, she would continue to work hard to repeal the health care act, calling it “invasive and unacceptably costly.”

Ms. Hayworth, a retired ophthalmologist whose husband, Dr. Scott Hayworth, is the president and CEO of the Mount Kisco Medical Group, said she believes the Affordable Health Care Act needs to be replaced with a “common sense plan that will preserve the choice, quality and innovation that Americans expect and deserve” in their medical care.

‘This is a case of the right goals, but the very wrong approach.’

— Rep Nan Hayworth

“My focus remains the same as when I was first elected, and the fact is this law needs to be repealed, and instead, we need to move forward with health care reform that achieves the right goals that we all as Americans agree with,” she said by phone on Tuesday. “Every American needs access to quality, affordable health care and insurance, but that 2010 law is just the wrong way to go about it. This law creates a $2 trillion bureaucracy that takes half a trillion dollars out of Medicare. It’s going to harm our seniors, it’s causing insurance premiums to skyrocket, and instead of improving the quality of care, will divert resources away from medical care. That’s unacceptable.”  

In a statement, Mr. Maloney hailed the court’s decision on June 28, and criticized the Ms. Hayworth, who he will challenge on Election Day this fall. “Here in the Hudson Valley, seniors can rest easier knowing that they won’t have to pay more for their prescription drugs, parents don’t have to worry about their kids getting thrown off their insurance, and no one will have to worry about being denied due to pre-existing conditions,” Mr. Maloney said. “When even conservative Justice Roberts agrees that all Americans have a right to affordable health care, it shows how out of step Congresswoman Hayworth is. Now is time for the extreme right to drop their attacks and start working constructively to help meet the law’s principal objectives, providing all Americans with access to the best health care in the world, while bringing down the costs of our health care system.”

Ms. Hayworth, the only female physician in Congress, said while she and fellow Republicans agree with many of the goals of the American Health Care Act, and even some portions of the current law, she vowed to work on its repeal, including helping to get Mitt Romney elected as President in November. “This is a case of the right goals, but the very wrong approach,” she said. “I’ve certainly been working on colleagues in the House on alternatives, and we will respond to what the American people have told us and move forward as rapidly as possible to replace this law with one that makes sense.”

Northern Westchester Hospital President and CEO Joel Seligman said that the court’s ruling was a relief, and could save the hospital potentially millions of dollars in “charity care,” the term he used to describe the hospital’s extensive medical care for those without any health coverage each year.

“Most importantly, it’s a good thing for America and the 31 million people who will end up with coverage,” said Mr. Seligman said last Friday, the day after the court’s 5-4 ruling was announced. “That’s been our biggest concern. The decision closes a lot of that gap.”

Since the act was enacted last year, he said, the hospital had experienced significant system reform and improvement. “I’m not saying that would have stopped,” Mr. Seligman said. “But it would have caused chaos.”

As for Ms. Hayworth’s criticism of the law, Mr. Seligman said he had “great respect for her intellect,” but has difficulty understanding the philosophy of the local Congresswoman and others opposing the health care act.

“There’s a school of thought that this will be more bigger government, when this really grows the private sector,” he said. “This will be a lot friendlier to the consumer.”

Mr. Seligman said that currently the hospital is writing off several millions of dollars each year for providing care for patients with no health coverage. “Other hospitals are writing off much more,” he said.

That money could make a big difference to health care providers and patients in years to come, he said.

Mr. Seligman acknowledged that there is a concern that possible reductions in Medicare payments could result. In some cases, he said, if payments are reduced too greatly, physicians may decide to opt out of the Medicare system. This could potentially limit care to the elderly.

“There needs to be discussions,” Mr. Seligman said. “There is a lot of concern about the program. You hear about physicians taken out of Medicare. There’s a lot in this bill to bend that cost curve. We need to work on higher quality, and reducing unnecessary services and care, more preventive services.

Assemblyman Robert Castelli, a Republican running for reelection, commented Thursday on the United State Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act as a tax.

“I was surprised and disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision,” Mr. Castelli said in a statement. “While I support some aspects of the Obama health care plan, I believe that it would have been in the best interests of the nation to strike down the mandatory requirement. At a time when the nation is facing an economic crisis second only to the Great Depression, this was not the time to increase the national debt by more than a trillion dollars. Other more viable options could have, and should have, been considered.”

The Democratic National Committee, in an email sent soon after the decision, criticized Ms. Hayworth’s position on the health care law.

“After the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act today, Congresswoman Hayworth’s Republican leaders announced they will vote to let insurance companies drop coverage for people who get sick, deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions like asthma, heart disease or cancer, and re-open the prescription drug ‘donut hole’ that would raise costs for seniors,” said Jesse Ferguson of the DCCC campaign committee. “Washington politicians like Congresswoman Nan Hayworth are trying to score partisan political points and protect insurance companies instead of protecting the middle class and seniors.”

Ms. Hayworth this week dismissed those claims, and said that any effective health care reform “should be focused on the patient, including our elderly, and not on government regulation and higher taxes at a time when we should be lowering taxes.”

Despite the intense lobbying and a divisive electorate, Mr. Seligman said that he did not foresee a repeal of the act. “There’s so much good coming out of this,” he said. “This will cause every hospital to rethink the way we operate in very positive ways. The industry has been responding positively to this for two years now, on preventative service, patient-centered care, things we are already working on. People are working on the right things.”


Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

 

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