Local leaders Thursday heralded a Supreme Court ruling that upheld most of the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, even suggesting it could ease the burden on property taxes.
“Whether or not the public realizes it, they pay for insurance one way or the other — if they don’t pay for it by having insurance themselves, they pay for it in that property owners are charged that additional fee for indigent care, and our insurance rate goes higher accordingly,” Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas said.
In November, the Liberty County Hospital Authority cited an increase in indigent care costs when requesting to raise its millage rate to 3.25 mills — and it was the sole taxing authority in the county to raise its rate for 2011.
While Thomas and Liberty County Commission Chairman John McIver both said they were elated to hear the ruling, congressional representatives called the ruling a disappointment.
“I am sorely disappointed that the court has upheld the individual mandate as a legal tax on the American people,” Sen. Johnny Isakson said in a written statement. “Today’s ruling does not change the fact that there have been enormous problems trying to implement this terribly flawed law and that it must be repealed and replaced with a step-by-step approach that makes health care more accessible, affordable and competitive.”
U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston and Sen. Saxby Chambliss both vowed in statements to work against the law, which each of the three voted against.
“While I believe the individual mandate to directly contradict the Constitution, we must respect the decision of the court. However, this is not the final chapter in the healthcare-reform debate,” Chambliss said. “I will continue to push to repeal the law, and urge Congress and the next administration to work to replace Obamacare.”
With the heightened pressure of an election year, national pundits have emphasized the ruling’s implications for President Barack Obama and presumed Republican candidate Mitt Romney. But one local health-care provider said access to medicine should not be spun as a partisan issue.
Dr. Seth Borquaye with the Comprehensive OB/GYN Health Center said the ruling can only benefit the health care industry, which he said is plagued by a broken system.
“If I go to the emergency room and pick up a patient who hasn’t got any insurance, I take them to the operating room, spending three hours doing complicated surgery, I don’t get paid. That is where the system is today,” Borquaye said.
Borquaye also said the provision that requires insurance companies to cover preventive care will shift the focus from reactionary treatment to preemptive care, which will eventually cut costs.
“I’m so happy, today is a great day for the country. You have about 35 million Americans without insurance. These 35 million people are a drain on the rest of us who have health care,” Borquaye said.