Mercy Administrator Pleased With ACA Court Ruling

Mercy Hospital Administrator Keith Heuser said Friday “overall I’m pleased” that the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday upheld the federal Affordable Care Act “as intended with changes in penalties.”

Heuser said “there are areas that need work, but when it comes to protecting people, there is a lot of good in the law. It allows people to access health care without fear of not being able to pay.”

He said preventive care without co-pays that are part of the new law might help cut costs of treating diseases caught early or nipped in the bud by preventive care.

Heuser expects Congress will tinker with the ACA, but “I truly hope they work on the things that are not so good. It gets us closer to ensuring healthcare services for people.”

Heuser said his views reflect those of Mercy Hospital parent Catholic Health Initiatives.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, the state’s dominant health insurer, said Thursday it would work with the North Dakota Legislature to craft a marketplace for patients to shop for insurance policies.
BCBSND President and CEO Paul von Ebers said without such legislation, more North Dakota health care decisions will be made by the federal government.

“North Dakotans should decide how to organize our local health care system, not someone in Washington,” von Ebers said.

Von Ebers said the ruling upholding the ACA doesn’t change the course the organization has been taking since the ACA was first signed into law – to drive toward North Dakota solutions to affordable health care for its members.

Von Ebers said the company has already implemented parts of the ACA and will continue to do so, and in addition, has put into action multiple initiatives that address the cost of health care through collaboration with doctors, hospitals and clinics across the state.

“We are confident that we can initiate North Dakota solutions to health care costs,” von Ebers said. “We are already doing it.”

Community health centers in North Dakota are applauding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the federal health care reform law.

Community Health Care Association of the Dakotas spokeswoman Stacie Fredenburg said the high court’s decision Thursday should allow the state’s 15 health centers to continue to expand and be funded.
Fredenburg says more than 32,000 patients sought care at the clinics in North Dakota last year and the need is growing.

U.S. Census Bureau data show about 83,000 North Dakotans had no health insurance in 2010.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple expressed disappointment Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal health care overhaul, but he said the state had no choice but to work to comply with the ruling.

“I do think it’s bothersome,” the Republican governor said of the high court’s decision on the ACA. “People have to remember that just because the Supreme Court says the law is constitutional, it doesn’t mean it’s good policy. It’s still not what the people in North Dakota want or the majority of the people in the country want.”

Dalrymple said his staff is reviewing the ruling and said it’s unclear how the state will proceed, including sections that call for online marketplaces for patients to shop for insurance policies and expanding Medicaid to cover people up to 133 percent of poverty level beginning in 2014.

“We have to keep hoping some new consensus can develop in Congress, and I have to keep hoping they can revise the law at the very least,” he said.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the federal health care reform law ends the debate about whether the law is constitutional, but he says it still can be improved.

Conrad said Congress should add “common sense provisions” to further control costs and improve patient care.

Republican U.S. Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Rick Berg said they will fight to repeal the law. Hoeven called it a “tax on the American people,” and Berg said it was a “massive government overreach.”

Berg faces Democrat Heidi Heitkamp in the November race to replace Conrad, who is retiring. The election may play a key role on which party controls the Senate next year.

Heitkamp said the law isn’t perfect and that she’ll work “to keep the good pieces intact and fix the bad pieces.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.