Suburban hospitals applaud court ruling
"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," said President and CEO Maryjane A. Wurth of Naperville-based Illinois Hospital Association.
Hospitals are expected to benefit as the pool of health care consumers grows and the proportion of care for which they never are reimbursed shrinks.
Lee Sacks, executive vice president and chief medical officer at Advocate Health Care, said there was a "sense of relief" around his office when the ruling came down Thursday morning. He said requiring people to buy insurance should make premiums more predictable, spreading the risk of costly health care procedures over the entire population.
"Now, we don't have to worry that the insurance industry would have been turned upside down," Sacks said.
Advocate has hospitals across the area, including in Barrington, Downers Grove, Libertyville and Park Ridge.
It's too soon to known all of the implications for hospitals, said Tracy A. Rogers, vice president and chief operating officer of Alexian Brothers Health System in Arlington Heights.
"We're pleased with the decision because it's consistent with our mission," Rogers said. "But it's too early to understand all of the financial impact on us right now. The law has a great deal of financial complexities and we'll continue to evaluate them."
Leaders at several hospitals said their industry is undergoing major changes, not all of them driven by the Affordable Care Act.
"The health care industry continues to transform itself," said Bruce Crowther, CEO of Northwest Community Healthcare in Arlington Heights. "I don't think the reform that is taking place is dependent on the law. Reform is already happening."
Echoing a common theme, Winfield-based Cadence Health, formed by the merger of Central DuPage Hospital in and Delnor Hospital in Geneva, said its commitment to patients will stay the same.
"While today's Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act is important for the health care industry, our focus remains unchanged," said Cadence spokesman Christopher N. King.
Chicago-based Access Community Health Network said the law will benefit its 200,000 adult and pediatric patients, 45,000 of whom are uninsured and mostly in working families.
"This is not just a Chicago problem. Access Community Health Network's largest growth has taken place in the suburban market, including in DuPage County, and our typical patient is not the same patient we had 10 years ago," said Access CEO Donna Thompson. "Many recently uninsured patients have not been through the cycle of poverty for years and years — rather, they are newly facing hard economic realities. They are your small business owners, nail technicians and the person sitting next to you in church on Sunday. Many of these working families will now have insurance that will allow them to get preventive care, protect their health, and not have to live in fear of catastrophic loss due to their health."
The ruling provides good news for those seeking health insurance coverage and other issues, but William N. Werner, president of the Illinois State Medical Society, says there are many more issues he'd reform.
Among them: Medicare payment, Medicaid and medical liability reforms, Werner said.
"Until we address these issues, our journey toward a sensible and cost-effective health care system is far from over," Werner said.
•Daily Herald Staff Writer Mike Riopell contributed to this report.
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