Health Care

June 28, 2012

Kansas hospitals have been preparing for law

Local health care providers’ reactions were mixed to Thursday’s Supreme Court decision that upholds most of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Local health care providers’ reactions were mixed to Thursday’s Supreme Court decision that upholds most of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Kansas hospital officials said they don’t expect much change in their operations because hospitals have begun implementing and preparing for changes called for in the nearly 2-year-old law.

“This was probably the easier decision because that’s how we’ve been functioning,” said Kansas Hospital Association spokeswoman Cindy Samuelson. “We now know we can continue moving down this path.”

If anything, the ruling eliminates uncertainty about changes hospitals had implemented or were planning to implement because of the law, said Wesley Medical Center chief financial officer Matt Leary.

“It gives us an answer to a question that’s been lingering,” Leary said.

Samuelson said that just because Kansas hospitals have been working under the premise that the law would be upheld doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges. She said perhaps the biggest could be higher patient volumes.

“This law does create the potential that more Kansans will have insurance,” she said, which means “more individuals potentially seeking care (and the need for) more providers to handle that influx of care.”

Wesley’s Leary said he’s not certain how patient numbers will be affected because most full-service hospitals have an emergency room and “you take whatever walks through the door” regardless of whether they have insurance.

Jeff Korsmo, chief executive of Via Christi Health, said in a statement that upholding the health care law “keeps in place improved access to health care through expanded insurance coverage and important insurance reforms.”

But Korsmo said the law doesn’t address the growing and unsustainable costs of health care.

“Those of us in health care know that much more work needs to be done to provide Americans with higher-quality health care that produces better outcomes at a lower cost,” he said.

Area physicians

Thomas Estep, a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon and president of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County, said that from a physician’s perspective it is still unclear what Thursday’s decision means because major parts of the law won’t be implemented until 2014 and legal interpretations of the Supreme Court’s decision still have to be made.

“I think the final details will unfold before us as time goes on,” he said.

So far, the law’s impact has been felt the most by physicians in terms of implementation of electronic health records and when physicians see patients, he said.

“Everybody has to participate to make this work, and go at this with a positive attitude,” he said.

Joe Davison, a family practice physician who has held numerous physician leadership positions at the local and state level, said he doesn’t think the law will achieve what those who support it think it will achieve.

“It’s the law now, so we will follow the law,” Davison said. “(But) it was a bill that was constructed in a piecemeal fashion. The continuity of the bills is not very smooth, therefore there is going to be some rough edges. A lot of those rough edges are not going to be worked out until it’s fully implemented.”

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