How Northeast Ohio leaders, residents feel about Supreme Court health care decision

CLEVELAND - Northeast Ohio medical professionals and patients have strong feelings after the Supreme Court issued its ruling about President Obama's health care reform.

The Supreme Court virtually upheld the core of the bill, including the individual mandate that nearly every American have health insurance. The Supreme Court decided it's unconstitutional to force Americans to buy health insurance; instead, they can be taxed for not doing so, effectively leaving the mandate intact.

Eric Bieber, chief medical officer at University Hospitals, said the decision is monumental.

"I think this is a wow moment. I think this is a moment where the game has been changed. If we look back 10, 15, 20 years, we're going to know we've gone down a very different path that is quite important for patients."

The bill, as it stands, would help the operations of some medical institutions, like the Free Clinic of Cleveland and MetroHealth Medical Center.

"This is a relief for us and a very important decision," said Dr. Alfred Connors, chief medical officer for MetroHealth. "We are the safe net provider for Cuyahoga County. The economic hard times we are still in have had a big effect on our patients, and when economic hard times occur, people lose their insurance and come to us."

The goal of the Free Clinic of Cleveland is to provide care for as many uninsured people as possible.

"It helps us in a lot of ways," said Stephen Thome, president of the Board of Cleveland's Free Clinic. "A lot of our patients will have better access to coverage. And for us, we'll still have a role in taking care of those who don't have it."

Health care reform also means the Free Clinic will have to educate more potential patients.

"I would said most of our patients may not even know they may be eligible under health care reform, so we'll have to help them understand that process," Thome added.

But not all medical professionals are comfortable with the Supreme Court's decision about health care reform.

"I think we move on now that the Supreme Court has told us that it's constitutional," said Michael Kirsch, MD, of the Center for Digestive Health. "And that doesn't tell us necessarily that the President's plan is the best prescription for the problems that we have in the health care system. There's much about the plan I support. But there are areas of the plan that I can tell you that many physicians are skeptical about. And, more importantly, many patients have concerns about the President's plan and where it could lead."

Kirsch said all medical professionals are in agreement in wanting the uninsured to have coverage, to support preventive care, for those with preexisting conditions to be covered.

"There is a concern that care is going to be restricted and, on a physician side, our concern is that there will be increased interference in the doctor/patient relationship," he added.

The Supreme Court's decision means children under 26 can remain on their parents' health care plans.

Steven Giallourakis is a 21-year-old college student from Westlake. He is also a UH patient, who was diagnosed with bone cancer at 15, underwent chemotherapy and surgery, only to be diagnosed with a type of leukemia.

"It means security for some time to come now," Giallourakis said. "It means I don't have to worry about getting sick and dropping out of a class, or not being a full-time student and losing health insurance for that reason."

Ohio's Republican lawmakers are unhappy with the Supreme Court's decision, including House Speaker John Boehner, who said Thursday's decision strengthened the GOP's resolve to make sure the law is repealed.

Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio released a statement, focusing on the bill's economic concerns.

"While the Court has deemed the law constitutional as a tax on the American people, it is still flawed policy that is unaffordable for our families, our small businesses, and our government."

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, a Democrat, said, "the Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction for our country."

Ohio Attorney General, Republican Mike DeWine, is disappointed by the decision on the constitutionality of Obamacare. 

"It is a matter now that will again be fought in the political arena and will be the preeminent issue of the presidential campaign."

As for how this plays out in the November Presidential election, NewsChannel5 political analyst Dr. Tom Sutton, of Baldwin-Wallace University, said, "This does represent a galvanizing point for those against the Affordable Care Act who now see the only way to get rid of this will be to keep the Republican majority in the House, get Republican majority in the Senate, and elect Mitt Romney as President, who has

pledged within moments of the decision being made by the Court to do what he can in his first day as President if elected to get rid of Obama health care bill."

Regardless of who gets in office, the fight over the Affordable Care Act could go on for years.

"I think we're not going to see major changes in this law. I would doubt it gets repealed," explained Toby Cosgrove, Cleveland Clinic's CEO. "But we'll see amendments go on for five years or longer as we continue to evolve toward a new healthcare delivery system."

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