Family Health Partnership Clinic Executive Director Suzanne Hoban said in a statement that she is pleased with the Supreme Court's ruling Thursday upholding most of President Barack Obama's historic yet controversial health care reform law. But she said that some McHenry County residents still will fall through the cracks.
She cited a 2011 study by the Urban Institute that projected the effects of the law on each state. The clinic, based in Woodstock, provides primary and some specialty care to the uninsured.
"While I am personally very happy that the key points of the health reform law have been upheld, the unfortunate reality is that in McHenry County, more than 20,000 people will still be without health insurance when this fully takes effect," Hoban said.
Centegra Health System, McHenry County's largest employer, applauded the decision.
"Centegra Health System has long supported new and efficient models of health care delivery that improves the outcome and lowers the cost for our patients," CEO Michael Eesley said. "This reform holds the promise that more of our community will have better access to the high-quality care we provide every day."
The state's two U.S. Senators split on the ruling along party lines.
Republican Sen. Mark Kirk said the law "threatens our economic recovery by raising taxes, imposing new regulations and creating a drag on the economy."
"Congress should repeal the health care law and replace it with common sense, centrist reforms that give Americans the right to buy insurance across state lines and expand coverage without raising taxes, while blocking the government from coming between patients and their doctors," Kirk said.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, on the other hand, lauded the court's decision.
"The decision means that we can move forward to address the unsustainable increase in health care costs and expand the protection of health insurance to over 30 million Americans – including millions in Illinois," Durbin said.
Durbin also complimented the swing vote by Chief Justice John Roberts as a "positive development."
"It is also noteworthy that after two controversial, activist decisions in Bush vs. Gore and Citizens United, the Chief Justice, in both the Arizona immigration law and the Affordable Care Act cases, appears to be working to re-establish the political neutrality of this court."
U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-IL, pledged to work to repeal the law. The 6th District he represents will include Algonquin Township after the November election.
Roskam said in a statement that many Americans will be forced into the exchanges after employers start dropping their insurance coverage, and that premiums will significantly increase.
"President Obama's takeover not only made our system more complex and expensive, but stalled our already tepid economic recovery by creating tremendous uncertainty for job creators and small business," Roskam said.
U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo, R-Egan, said he has already heard from employers who intend to lay off workers or stop hiring to stay below the 50-employee threshold for small businesses.
"Americans are rightfully concerned that their employer-provided health insurance is threatened with this new law, and they don't want it," Manzullo said.
Kim Clarke Maisch, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, called the ruling a profound disappointment and a "massive tax increase on small businesses and individuals." The 350,000-strong group was the lead plaintiff in the case.
Maisch said small businesses and insurance companies will not eat the increased costs, but pass them on to consumers.
"Obamacare has done nothing to decrease the cost of health care. It's just a massive shift of who is going to pay for it all," Maisch said.
The group also expressed concern about the legal precedent that today's ruling would set, said Karen Harned, executive director of the federation's legal center.
"This day will go down in history as the day when Americans lost a part of their freedom – the freedom to choose what they want to buy with their own money when they want to buy it, apart from the government telling them they must purchase a product they may or may not want," Harned said.
Echoing concerns over the precedent was the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based conservative free-market think tank. Its experts said Thursday that there are a lot of things that government would love to require you to buy.
"The federal government owns major stakes in Chrysler and General Motors. Might the government some day require Americans to buy new cars or pay a penalty – I'm sorry, a tax – if we don't do it? Under this ruling we may someday find out," said budget and tax policy research fellow Steve Stanek, a McHenry resident.
Research director S. T. Karnick said the ruling actually will make the law easier to repeal, because the individual mandate is considered a tax. Also, he said, the court found a core provision – forcing states to extend Medicaid to more people by threatening to withhold federal funding – unconstitutional.
Twenty-six states challenged the law in court.
"The bill was hence deemed constitutional but made thoroughly unworkable and more easily repealed," Karnick said.
Both the association representing Illinois hospitals and the state' s largest hospital system applauded Thursday's ruling.
Illinois Hospital Association President and CEO Maryjane Wurth said the legislation will save residents from a diminished quality of life, from dying from a lack of insurance, and from bankruptcy because of a life-threatening illness.
"Illinois hospitals have long supported the expansion of coverage for the uninsured and reforms to eliminate exclusions for pre-existing conditions and coverage caps to improve the health and well-being of Illinoisians," Wurth said.
Advocate Health Care, which includes Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, likewise called the decision "very good news" for the faith-based, non-profit health care provider.
"Now that the health reform law has withstood the Constitutional test, we look forward to tackling the biggest challenge facing the health system today - the rising cost of care," Advocate said in a statement. "Our goal is to partner with the federal government to apply proven private sector solutions to address the unsustainable Medicare program."
The Illinois State Medical Society in a news release said that they are concerned that issues such as liability reform and Medicaid reimbursement are, in its opinion, unresolved.
Expanding Medicaid is "not a sensible policy in states such as Illinois with struggling Medicaid programs," the society said, adding that the state's reimbursement lags behind 40 other states. It also cited that physicians face a 30 percent reimbursement cut at the federal level at the start of 2013.
The society also said that Illinois needs to address medical liability reform – it said half of physicians training in Illinois leave after residency, and two-thirds cite the liability laws among their main reasons.
"Until we address these issues, our journey toward a sensible and cost-effective health care system is far from over," the statement said.
The ruling prompted Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to issue a warning about the cost to the cash-strapped state government, urging lawmakers to "start saving now for these additional costs."
Topinka, a Republican, said the law could cost the state up to $2.4 billion over the next six years as hundreds of thousands of new residents enroll for Medicaid coverage. Medicaid now accounts for more than 20 percent of the state budget, and Topinka estimated the program will have $2 billion in unpaid bills when the 2012 budget expires Saturday.
"Illinois is a textbook example of what can happen if financial challenges are not proactively addressed," Topinka said. "The state needs to learn from experience, and take steps today to address the increased Medicaid costs that will occur in the coming months and years."