Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding a sweeping overhaul of America’s health care system left some Northwest Georgia residents happy, but some business executives said they are worried about the costs of the law. And members of the area’s congressional delegation vowed to continue their fight against it.
Dalton resident George Rodriguez said he was glad the Supreme Court upheld the law with some qualifications.
“If there are problems with it, let Congress fix it. That’s what they are elected to do,” Rodriguez said.
But some business leaders said they are concerned about the law’s potential impacts.
“Most of the business owners and executives I’ve spoken to have been worried about this law. It’s difficult to understand and will be difficult to implement,” said Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce President Brian Anderson.
Anderson said the court decision gives some clarity, but it also means that many more questions will have to be answered before the law takes full effect in 2014.
“One example is that Georgia and many other states have not created the health care exchanges that the law calls for,” Anderson said. “In Georgia, I know that there has been discussion about the framework for an exchange, the governor’s office has certainly done some work. But the (state) attorneys general (who challenged the law in court) were somewhat confident they had a chance to win, so many states waited before really investing heavily in these exchanges.”
Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, said the court’s decision “will be detrimental to both employers and employees throughout the nation as a result of increased costs and new regulations.”
“Businesses will be forced to make difficult decisions that will likely result in employees losing their employer-provided coverage,” Clark said. “Our organization will look forward to working with the governor and other leaders at the state and federal level to implement the law in a way that takes into account the important role businesses play by providing this important benefit and the overall impact on our economy.”
Dalton Mayor David Pennington, who is managing director of Advanced Insurance Strategies, said the law is already having an impact on the insurance industry, driving up health insurance costs and increasing the influence of large insurance companies.
“This decision shows the American people can’t rely on the Supreme Court to protect us from an incompetent Congress, and that’s what we’ve had for a while, both when it was controlled by Democrats or Republicans,” said Pennington. “I hope we wake up and start electing some more competent people to Congress.”
Don Thomas, a Dalton family practice physician and former state legislator, said he was surprised the court upheld the so-called individual mandate that requires those without insurance to purchase it or face a financial penalty. Chief Justice John Roberts said the court’s view of the mandate is as a valid exercise of Congress’ authority to “lay and collect taxes.
“I was just in a meeting with other doctors, and I was talking to three of them as we left. They were shocked by the ruling, too,” Thomas said.
He said that he and other doctors are concerned the law will increase the burden on doctors.
“I’m concerned about what it will do to all physicians, especially primary care doctors,” Thomas said. “It will increase our paperwork, increase our costs. But the only way to combat it now is to elect a majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate who will overturn it.”
Several members of Georgia’s congressional delegation quickly said they will work to repeal the law.
“House Republicans are firmly committed to removing this entire law,” said Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger. “Once that work is done, and the nightmare known as Obamacare is fully behind us, we must engage in a thoughtful, common-sense approach to reforming health care in America. Any reforms we undertake pertaining to health care must let families make their own health choices and preserve the doctor-patient relationship. It’s time for a patient-centered, patient-driven, free market-focused solution for health care.”
U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., emphasized that the court’s decision was not the last word on health care.
“I will continue to push to repeal the law, and urge Congress and the next administration to work to replace Obamacare. This law adds new taxes on an already overtaxed population, and adds regulation to an already over-regulated industry,” Chambliss said. “We must address the skyrocketing costs of health care and its impact on individuals, families and small businesses while working together on transparent and measured reforms to ensure that everyone has access to quality and affordable care.”
And U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said he was “sorely disappointed by the court’s ruling,” adding it “does not change the fact that there have been enormous problems trying to implement this terribly flawed law and that it must be repealed and replaced with a step-by-step approach that makes health care more accessible, affordable and competitive.”