Des Plaines teacher and breast cancer survivor Marianne Flanagan said Thursday's landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on President Obama's health care plan will help people who, like her, skipped preventive care because of the cost.
Her private health insurance didn't cover a $150 mammogram, so she went without. Then she discovered a lump and was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I don't see it as a political thing," said Flanagan, 62, who works with low-income families that also struggle with health care costs. "People in this country cannot live without the health care companies being reined in."
Small business owner Tim Perry, however, said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is likely to be a financial hit for his company and his employees.
"Although one day I'd like to insure our employees when we've become more financially secure, I believe if I were forced, I have no other choice but to pass the cost along to our employees as a payroll deduction," said Perry, president of Precision Metal Technologies Inc. in Rolling Meadows.
Suburban residents and businesses expressed a range of feelings about Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the controversial mandate that nearly everyone have health insurance -- considered to be the glue that holds the law together. But it struck down expanded Medicaid coverage for low-income people.
Some said the Act already has helped families hit hard by the high cost of health care -- especially those with pre-existing conditions, children in their early 20s or plans for early retirement -- even though most provisions of the law are not yet in effect. Others said the Act didn't reform the system at all, and that costs remain high and now will go higher.
Health care reform has caused insurance premiums to consistently rise, said George Olmos, vice president and controller at Morgan Harbour Construction in Woodridge.
"Our company has incurred 20 percent increases each year over the past several years," Olmos said. With the court's ruling, "this will only continue with the end result adding costs to small businesses which can be problematic if they want to retain quality employees."
Health care reform isn't the best program ever written, but it's the best we have right now, and the health care industry hasn't come up with any other solutions, said Larry Burns, CEO at StartSampling.com in Carol Stream.
"Either way, we will see increases in insurance rates," Burns said. "I don't want free health care, I just want health care that's affordable. We've already seen some increases in rates. But I will continue to offer insurance because it's a way to attract people to stay with my firm."
Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka warned the state's Medicaid costs could go up $2.4 billion over the next six years. She said that's because uninsured residents who qualify for Medicaid, but aren't currently on the rolls, will sign up.
"We have thousands of residents around the state that are eligible for Medicaid but have never enrolled for one reason or another," she said. "We expect they will increasingly come forward, and I urge lawmakers to start saving now for those added costs."
Flanagan believes the Act's coverage of preventive care helps women who are in her position, and ultimately will save lives.
In Illinois, 1,353,031 people with Medicare have received free preventive services in 2011 under the Act, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Another 1,962 people couldn't get health insurance because of pre-existing conditions and were insured in 2011 under provisions of the Act. And 144,226 Illinoisans with Medicare received a 50 percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs, with an average savings of $667 per person, the agency reported.
Still, businesses were concerned with rising costs.
The law will "affect the bottom-line cost of benefits for our business now and in the years to come," said Jon Abt of Abt Electronics in Glenview. "For example, having to add people who work between 30-37 hours to our plan would drive the cost up significantly, whether in premiums or claims."
Other business owners weren't sure yet.
"My gut feeling is that with the Supreme Court upholding health care reform legislation it will have little impact on my business," said Mike Cleary, founder and owner of Home Mobility Solutions in Downers Grove. "Neither health insurance or Medicare pay for the type of equipment and modifications I provide to my clients." Most small- to medium-sized manufacturers purchase their health insurance through insurance brokers and are counting on them to provide the best advice. They are all concerned and somewhat confused about how this will affect them, said Mary Rose Hennessy, executive director of Business Innovation Services at the University of Illinois in Naperville.
"Most manufacturers I have spoken with have issues with the federal mandates associated with the new law, and are looking into alternative plans," said Hennessy. "I think most manufacturers large and small still wonder what will happen after the election; they just want to plan their strategy going forward."
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce plans to work closely with state policymakers and others on putting the law's provisions in place, said Doug Whitley, president and CEO of the Illinois chamber.
"The Supreme Court's decision allows employers, consumers, and states to resume planning and implementation efforts with greater certainty, but we also know the enormity of this law presents ongoing challenges," Whitley said.