The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

June 29, 2012

Hospitals, insurers resigned to new reality

MERCER COUNTY — There was lots of talk out there among local health care providers on  Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling – but none of the three local hospital systems offered bold predictions or commented on the politics.

Linde Wilson, chief executive officer of Sharon Regional Health System, called the decision “historic’’ in that it changed the trajectory of the nation’s health care system.

“This decision reinforces our path of increasing quality, safety, and process efficiency,’’ Wilson said. “It will enable more than 40 million Americans without health insurance to now have access.’’

Robert C. Jackson Jr., Grove City Medical Center’s CEO, said the hospital would continue with its primary focus on providing local health care.

“Much of the law is still conceptual, and as far as patients and community is concerned, nothing has changed.’’

UPMC, which has hospitals in Farrell and Greenville, issued a statement from corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh. The ruling reinforces their current strategy to “provide higher quality at affordable costs,” UPMC said. “We know that the current model of care delivery in this country is unsustainable.”

Connie Gerba, benefits manager for Gilberts Risk Solutions in Sharon, was confident of one thing: “We believe we will see rates increase with health insurance on both individual and group policies.’’

She based her opinion on several reports issued immediately after the court ruling.

The Blue Cross/Blue Shield Association said it expected the ruling would add between $350 and $400 annually on family health care premiums in 2016, while the National Federation of Independent Businesses said it was estimating family insurance coverage costs would surge $5,000 annually by 2020.

Gerba said she wasn’t surprised the court upheld the law.

“We are now two years into this law. It would be difficult if not impossible to say ‘We’re going back to the way we were,’ ’’ she said. “It would be an administrative nightmare.’’

“I don’t think it’s going away,’’ she said. “A decade from now we could be facing what other countries have where insurance companies follow a model by their federal government and where consumers can buy something as a private citizen to augment that.

Gary Dalessandro, a financial planner for JFS Wealth Advisors in Hermitage, said the changes will be paid for by “wealthier” Americans. The law includes a 0.9 percent increase in Medicare taxes for those earning $200,000 or more as a single person and married couples earning $250,000 or more.

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