But in the long term, it will lead to changes that provide better access to health care, according to Joseph P. Ross, president and chief executive officer of Meritus Health.
“We’re pleased with the decision,” Ross said of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
He said the federal health care law is “the most significant health policy legislation since Medicare and Medicaid.”
“There are without a doubt, thousands of people in Washington County who will be able to access affordable health insurance coverage because of the Affordable Care (Act),” said Joshua Sharfstein, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The court’s decision “is a huge decision to ensure healthcare for many. This is the first step in ensuring that all Americans have the capability to get care when they need it,” Norman Epstein, president and chief executive officer for Summit Health, said in an email.
Summit Health oversees Waynesboro Hospital and Chambersburg Hospital in Pennsylvania.
“While we expect that the reform bill will reduce the number of uninsured, no one knows for sure how that will unfold at this time. We will continue existing efforts to increase efficiency across the continuum of care, and focus more on prevention and wellness initiatives,” said a statement released on behalf of the chief administrative officers of City Hospital and Jefferson Memorial Hospital in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle.
“The Supreme Court ruling will not be the end of the health care reform debate. Hospitals will continue to face financial, operational and regulatory pressures that will continually challenge our hospitals and caregivers in ensuring that every West Virginia resident has access to ‘the right care, in the right place, at the right time,’” the statement said.
Once all of the federal health-care law’s initiatives kick in, every American still won’t have health insurance because some people will choose not to have it, Ross said.
“Those that just choose to pay the fine will still turn up in the ER and won’t have insurance,” Ross said.
There also will be many families who are so poor they will not be required to get health insurance, said Robin Roberson, executive director for the Community Free Health Clinic on Mill Street.
Among the millions of people who will be exempt from the requirement to have health insurance will be people whose incomes are so low they don’t have to file tax forms, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s website.
“From the standpoint of the Community Free Clinic, we continue to serve whoever needs our health care services, and we will continue to do that until we are forced to do otherwise,” Roberson said.
The clinic had more than 15,000 patient visits in 2011 and dispensed 44,079 prescription medicines worth more than $4.275 million, Roberson said.
There’s a huge demand for the clinic’s services, including from families making tough decisions about whether to put food on the table, pay utility bills, or pay for health care, she said.
Still, the federal law will help improve access and affordability of health insurance, health officials say.
Ross said he expects the number of visits to Meritus Medical Center’s Emergency Department to go up in the short term as people gain health insurance coverage, while the area still has a shortage of primary-care physicians.
Emergency department visits have increased about 6 percent to 10 percent a year. Ross said. The medical center could have close to 90,000 visits when the fiscal year ends Saturday or will soon have that many in a year, he said.