Hospital Association "Optimistic" as Hardline Stances Emerge on Obamacare Ruling

Governor Jan Brewer said Thursday's Supreme Court decision on health care will lead to the "erosion of individual liberty."

Congressman Ben Quayle said "[Thursday's] decision was a disaster for the American people and the American healthcare system."

Beyond the expected trigger-happy partisan rhetoric surrounding health care, the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association was still trying to understand the ramifications of the ruling.

"It remains to be seen. We're cautiously optimistic," said Pete Wertheim, the association's vice president of communications. "I wouldn't call it a disaster. There's a lot of moving elements to it."

Some of the roughly 1.2 million uninsured Arizona residents might appreciate the law's provision that allows states to extend Medicaid coverage to those earning incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line, Wertheim said.

This is contingent of course on whether the sate of Arizona will actually opt in to this federal exchange. The Supreme Court decision knocked down the provision of the law that would force states to opt into the expanded Medicaid system.

Another segment of the Arizona population that would likely enjoy the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling, are 55-64 year-olds. They are not yet eligible for Medicare, and they tend to pay higher premium rates under the current health care system because of pre-existing condition rules, which hike up their insurance costs. Those premium costs could be substantially lower under the new health care law, Wertheim said.

Wertheim says that healthy younger Arizona residents -- who would've otherwise foregone health insurance coverage --will be the ones who help balance out the system for older and/or sicker residents.

The sick will pay less than they currently do, and healthier Arizonans will pay more. But more people will have access to affordable health care, including the healthy -- who never know when a medical crisis could befall them.

That's a whole lot of ifs, mights, woulds and likelies, and Wertheim says that no one, including him, has definitive answers right now.

"If you ask 10 experts right now, you'll probably get 10 different responses."

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Jason Lewis
Contact: Jason Lewis