Locals react to Supreme Court ruling
Updated: July 3, 2012 1:29PM
Loyola Primary Care Medical Director Keith Veselik agrees with the Illinois Hospital Association in its support of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding federal health-care reform measures.
“In the big picture, this is probably a good thing,” said Veselik, a resident of Clarendon Hills. Veselik’s responsibilities include Loyola’s Burr Ridge location.
Although it will mean more work for those in health care as more people seek care, Veselik believes the act will decrease the overall cost of care for those who did not have insurance.
“We’re going to have a lot of people seeking care who weren’t accessing care in any consistent way before,” Veselik said.
But in the long run, Veselik said, it is better and less expensive to provide early care than it is to treat a problem when it becomes more advanced.
“People without insurance wait too long to take care of a problem,” he said. With more people having access to care, problems can be prevented or taken care of before they’re a big problem.
“Taking care of someone who has colon cancer is a lot more expensive than a colonoscopy,” he said.
“Because of this legislation, people in Illinois will no longer have a diminished quality of life, be at risk of dying merely because they lack health insurance, or be forced into bankruptcy because of a devastating diagnosis,” Maryjane A. Wurth, president and chief executive officer of the Naperville-based Illinois Hospital Association, said in a statement.
Not everyone was pleased. Western Springs resident Ken Sitkowski, owner of Bannerville USA in Burr Ridge, isn’t happy with the decision, but he doesn’t expect it to have a big effect on him or his business.
“We offer our employees health care anyhow,” he said.
While some say premiums will go up under the health care reform, Sitkowski said that already is a reality.
“Quite frankly, I don’t think a year goes by we don’t have a max increase anyway,” he said.
Still, he isn’t happy with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“I think there’s too much interference in our lives the way it is,” he said.
He said people should be able to assess their own risk and choose whether or not they need insurance.
“It should be their prerogative,” he said.
La Grange area social service areas administrators still are analyzing all the details.
“It’s complicated,” said Anne Schreiner, chief executive officer of Pillars, a LaGrange Park-based human service agency serving 36 area communities.
“For folks who do not have any kind of coverage, certainly this act will allow them to have better access to eligibility, come 2014,” Schriener said. “That means a stream of reimbursement for our organization, and that’s a positive.”
Angela Curran, chief executive officer of Community Nurse Health Association in La Grange, said the high court’s decision was welcome news, because $650,000 in new federal funding to the agency is more secure.
“If the act had been declared unconstitutional, that funding would have been jeopardized for next year and beyond,” Curran said. “Knowing the act has not been declared unconstitutional puts us on more secure footing on federal funding, and we’ll be able to expand our service.”
In 2010, the agency applied for federally qualified health-care status to help cover the cost of providing medical and dental services to low income and uninsured residents of 18 west Cook County suburbs.
Funding was cut and then reinstated, Curran said, and the agency was notified earlier in June it will be awarded the funds.
“About $150,000 of that grant will be to enhance our capacity to deliver a health-care program for people in our service area who are experiencing homelessness, not only in shelters, but if they are doubling up with another family,” Curran said.
“It’s very good news for Community Nurse and for our patients,” she said.
The impact of other aspects of the ruling less clear.
“We’re still trying to figure out what it all means,” Curran said. “The most interesting thing is what they did with the Medicaid ruling.”
As originally passed, the act required states to expand Medicaid eligibility to those at 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which is an annual income of $11,000 or less for an individual. If states refused, they would lose federal funding.
The Supreme Court struck down that provision making the Medicaid expansion not tied to receiving federal funding.
Illinois was not one of the 26 states bringing suit against the act leading to the ruling, and how Medicaid eligibility will be affected is unclear, Curran said. State lawmakers cut Medicaid funding and passed a moratorium on expanding eligibility through January 2015, unless required to do so by federal mandate, Curran said.
The state’s eventual interpretation of Medicaid eligibility will have an impact on the association and patients it serves, she said.
In the meantime, the agency will continue to serve low-income area residents in need of health care, regardless of their insurance or legal status, Curran said.
“It doesn’t solve the health-care crisis issues for undocumented residents, and we can’t pretend that doesn’t affect all of us,” she said. “Without a safety net system, they still use the emergency rooms, they still delay care and develop chronic illnesses, instead of getting preventative care.
“Hospital systems have to build that in to cover those costs,” she said. “We’re paying for it one way or another.”