In Health Care Fight, Focus on the Public

By Smith, Barbara Peters | Sarasota Herald Tribune, June 21, 2012 | Go to article overview

In Health Care Fight, Focus on the Public


Smith, Barbara Peters, Sarasota Herald Tribune


2010 LAW: Parts of the act will be hard to roll back regardless of court ruling

With the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the 2010 health reform law expected any day, the battle over the Affordable Care Act has shifted to shaping the public opinion on the outcome.

On Wednesday, Families USA, a national organization backing the law, released a study highlighting a rise during the recession of premature deaths among Americans without health insurance coverage, with Florida ranking third in the number of such deaths for 2010.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott took part in a national conference call sponsored by groups that want the justices to overturn the law, letting all 50 states find their own solutions for health care access.

Meanwhile -- regardless of how the court rules -- so many complex aspects of the act have already gained momentum that restoring the U.S. health care system to its pre-2010 state would be practically impossible. The federal government hammered this point home Wednesday by announcing a new round of nearly $129 million in grants to expand community health care centers. Sarasota County received almost $596,000 of nearly $9 million allocated to Florida public health clinics.

The grant, to repeat yearly through 2016, will fund primary care for low-income and uninsured patients in north Sarasota County -- and shore up the county's safety net collaboration with providers that include Sarasota Memorial Hospital and the Senior Friendship Center. It will basically extend the county's federally funded North Port health center to the Ringling Boulevard location.

The Affordable Care Act established an $11 billion, five-year fund to expand and staff these community health centers. The Obama administration sees them as a way to provide better access to primary and preventive care, and reduce burdens on hospital emergency rooms. More than 20 million people -- one in 15 Americans - - relied on a federally funded clinic in 2010.

Scott and others want the framework undone. In the Wednesday conference call, Scott said he remains optimistic that the health care law will be overturned or repealed, and said he wants Florida to receive federal health care funds in a block grant that the state would allocate -- "for the dollars we send up there as part of our income tax."

If the Supreme Court -- or Congress -- reverses the law's provision for an expansion of Medicaid to cover more Americans, and states get control of the money instead, Scott said he would "make sure there's as much competition among insurance providers as possible," and "provide incentives for more providers to come into Florida."

His vision, he said, involves allowing the sale of health insurance across state lines, along with more tax breaks for small businesses that cover employees. The state would ensure that consumers understand pricing and that a "high-risk pool" covers those with pre-existing conditions. …

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