UPDATE: Joe Thompson, AHA, Other Health Care Professionals React to Ruling

by Mark Carter and Mark Friedman  on Thursday, Jun. 28, 2012 3:45 pm  

Joe Thompson, Arkansas surgeon general

Health-care officials in Arkansas reacted Thursday to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold key portions of President Obama's health-care law including the individual coverage mandate.

The court by a 5-4 count upheld the individual insurance requirement that represented the heart of the debate but struck a provision expanding Medicaid services.

Paul Cunningham, senior vice president of the Arkansas Hospital Association, told ArkansasBusiness.com he thought the court would strike the individual coverage mandate and expressed disappointment that the court struck down the requirement that states expand their Medicaid programs or lose funding.

"It raises concerns about the potential for coverage of many low-income adults in those states that might opt out of expanding," he said.

Arkansas Surgeon General Joe Thompson, traveling home from a speaking engagement in North Carolina, told ArkansasBusiness.com that he was glad to have moved past "one more milestone toward whole system transformation," and that he believed Medicaid expansion still was "in play."

"This gives us some clarity," he said.

Thompson noted that the state was well on its way to implementing most of the law's provisions, and the ruling simply affirms what progress has already been made.

Gene Shelby, an ER doctor in Hot Springs and president of the Arkansas Medical Society, said in a statement that the organization agrees with the law's efforts to expand coverage for the uninsured. But the group maintains several points of contention with the law including:

  • New reporting requirements for physicians and other health-care providers
  • The limit on physician ownership of hospitals
  • Medicare restrictions that hinder the ability to recruit doctors and health-care providers to rural states like Arkansas
  • Concerns over the rising cost of defensive medicine
  • Medicare sustainability and its physician payment system
  • Patients' access to the doctors of their choice.

Dan Rahn, chancellor for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, called the ruling an important step in ensuring access to health care for all Americans.

"We now have a frame work to achieve that goal," he said. "But we are still faced with the fundamental problem of uncontrolled costs in health care."

UAMS is an important part in the state’s safety net, he said, and in ensuring that all Arkansans have access to health care, "the challenge is to not have that contribute to cost escalation."




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