/ Modified jun 29, 2012 4:56 p.m.

AZ Week: Health Care Happiness or Horror?

Across the spectrum, court-backed Affordable Care Act lauded, lambasted


The U.S. Supreme Court's opinion on the Affordable Care Act this week unleashed a flurry of other opinions on the law.

It's health care heaven, proponents said.

It's an insurance imbroglio and bad for business, opponents declaimed. They also said it presents what will be on an ongoing legal labyrinth that one said will become even more tortuous with new court cases.

And still others said the health care system needs more improvement, including time to get the pieces of the law functioning over the next several years.

"We have been working for quite some time on creating a system of care that would coordinate care better and manage our populations to actually keep them out of Tucson Medical Center," the hospital's CEO, Judy Rich, said in an Arizona Week interview. "It's been our strategy and our plan for a long time to really build on the Affordable Care Act."

Rich said the law is good for TMC because it will help expand care and cover the costs for those who cannot now afford care.

"It's good news for hospitals, because we now care for everybody who comes through our doors, regardless of their ability to pay," she said.

But worries about continually rising health care costs and what the law will or won't do for them are a recurring theme with business.

"There's a very serious concern about what the bill will do in terms of the cost of health care as well as the quality and accessibility of health care," said Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, also in an Arizona Week interview. "We certainly haven't seen any sort of declines in costs."

In fact, using the word "affordable" in the law may be misleading, one health specialist said.

"That's a little bit of a misnomer, although perhaps politically expedient," said Joe Gerald, a physician and health economist at the University of Arizona College of Public Health.

"Really, the tie-in between economics and health care is pretty loose," Gerald said. "Again, I think the name of the act is a little bit misleading per se.

"This is really directed at more of a social aspect, asking yourself: Do you fundamentally believe that Americans have a right to health care? If you answer that in the affirmative, then you have a lot to like in regard to the Affordable Care Act. If you don't think that's true, then there's many reasons you wouldn't like this."

The legal labyrinth theory came from Nick Dranias, director of the Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix. Dranias, a lawyer, and Goldwater have long opposed the Affordable Care Act as constitutionally questionable and a governmental intrusion on individual freedom.

"Liberty took a body blow today, but it's not down for the count," Dranias said in an Arizona Week interview. "We still have a challenge to the Independent Payment Advisory Board, what Sarah Palin called the 'death panel,' which is pending.

"And that challenge is actually made stronger by the portion of the decision that struck down the individual mandate under the commerce clause. ... We will pursue that challenge to the health care law with fervor and until the end."

Possibly adding to that, Dranias said, Goldwater lawyers will dissect the Supreme Court opinion to seek legal challenge opportunities to other aspects of the Affordable Care Act other than the tax imposed on those who don't buy insurance.

Reporter Michael Chihak further explores the fallout of the Affordable Care Act decision on Arizona Week at 8:30 p.m. MST on PBS-HD6.

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