by AT News Team
Politicians reacted along party lines last Thursday when the Supreme Court announced its decision on the Affordable Care Act of 2010, the signature legislation of President Barack Obama’s administration. But almost all health institutions affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church welcomed the outcome.
“We are pleased that the court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, including the individual mandate,” said a statement from Adventist Health, the organization that controls most of the denomination’s health institutions in the Pacific and North Pacific union conferences, published in the Ukiah Daily Journal and other California newspapers. “Without the mandate … we believe that the other provisions such as elimination of the pre-existing condition ban would be financially difficult to implement. We also believe that the uninsured problem would have continued to grow, putting greater pressure on hospitals to continue to subsidize care.”
Hinsdale Adventist Hospital provided a statement to the Chicago Sun-Times that said, “We look forward to the benefits that will come to our patients with the increased access to insurance coverage provided by the … Act.” The four Adventist hospitals in the suburbs of Chicago “have been implementing measures to improve the quality of care and reduce costs,” the newspaper reported.
“We recognize that the health reform bill is not perfect,” Dennis Kiley, chief executive of Emory-Adventist Hospital in the suburbs of Atlanta, told The Marietta Daily Journal. At 88 beds, this is a community hospital of modest size, but it treated more than 25,000 patients in its emergency department last year. This where hospitals end up having to care for people that the system otherwise fails to connect with.
“Our organization has provided health care for over 100 years,” the Adventist hospital in Gordon County, Georgia, told the Calhoun Times. “We will continue to work with others, including Congress, to create a system that reduces the overall cost of health care, builds a healthier community and improves outcomes and patient experience.”
Kevin A. Roberts, chief executive of Glendale Adventist Medical Center in southern California, gave the Glendale News Press one example of the improvements it is making. The recent launch of its Adventist Health Physicians Network “provides a much broader, community-based way to care for our patients and this community,” he said.
“As the largest health care provider in Montgomery County,” reported the Gazette chain of suburban newspapers near Washington, DC, Adventist Healthcare “will continue to play a key role in the community’s medical needs.” It noted that William G. “Bill” Robertson, chief executive officer of the system that includes Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park and Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, “did not comment directly on the Supreme Court ruling.”
A lengthy interview with Richard Morrison, senior vice president for government affairs at Florida Hospital and president of the Adventist Health Policy Association, was published by the Orlando Sentinel today. He sees the controversial new law “as a shot in the arm for many in the ranks of the uninsured, put no panacea,” the daily paper summarized.
As a result of more people getting care, Morrison predicted that “we can expect a rise in patients who have neglected care. This would mean longer waits for appointments or increase use of emergency departments.” Also, there will be a “significant rise in the demand for physicians,” probably faster than it is possible to recruit and train more doctors. He based his predictions on the experience in Massachusetts where Governor Mitt Romney implemented a plan much like the new law approved by the Supreme Court last week.
Even if the Republican Party gains a majority in both houses of Congress and repeals the health care law, as it has vowed to do, “many of the changes being made now … will continue,” Morrison told the newspaper’s editorial writer, Darryl E. Owens. Health professionals are “moving forward with such items as electronic medical records, care coordination and those items that improve quality and outcomes. Even if ACA were repealed in its entirety, those improvements or reforms will continue.”
Many health professionals believe that as controversial as this law is, it does not go far enough. “The real challenge of the sustainability of Medicare as it exists today has not been met,” Morrison told the journalist.
“Many of our health administrators may not be happy with the political outcome of this decision,” a retired executive from an Adventist hospital told Adventist Today, “but they really don’t have much choice other than to embrace it and try to make the best of it,” He stated that a lot of the political rhetoric is “simplistic and out of touch with reality. And these guys have to deal with reality every hour of every day. It is unrelenting. Our health institutions exist in a torrent of change that they cannot turn off or hide out from.”
“The Adventist concept of prevention and proactive health habits is needed now more than ever,” a retired health professor pointed out to Adventist Today. “But a faith-based community is a better vehicle for teaching good health than a government bureaucracy. We need to help our country set aside the political games and focus on what will really make a difference for people’s lives.”