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How health care ruling will affect NWI not clear yet

Updated: July 30, 2012 6:30AM

Local officials had mixed reactions Thursday to the Supreme Court’s upholding of the federal health care legislation, with some saying there are still more questions to be answered.

U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Merrillville, praised the order for providing various benefits to residents, including free preventative care and affordable prescriptions for senior citizens.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act is a victory for the millions of Americans whose lives will be improved through the law’s implementation,” Visclosky said in a release.

However, Sen. Dan Coats railed against the ruling, claiming that the law is a “massive intrusion” into the lives of Americans.

“The Supreme Court’s decision today confirms that President Obama broke his promise to Americans that his law would not raise taxes on the middle class,” Coats said, adding that he would work to repeal the law.

The court’s approval means not only that more people will finally have insurance, Valparaiso-based HealthLinc CEO Beth Wrobel said, but that the clinic will be able to serve more people to. HealthLinc recently won $5 million that came from the Affordable Care Act, she said, which will be used to expand HealthLinc’s service.

Wrobel said that areas of Porter County are still underserved by clinics and that about 17,000 people in the county still need more access.

“Those people are getting their care through the emergency room,” she said. “...Or they’re not getting the care, and they’re getting sicker.”

HealthLinc had prepared for either decision in the Supreme Court Case, Wrobel said, but the upholding of the law means that it will be able to provide better care for its clients. For instance, she said, it can now provide more preventative care because that must be covered by insurance companies.

The court’s move surprised Rex Richards, executive director of the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce, who said he thought court would strike down the mandate for everyone to have health insurance.

“I am surprised they gave that kind of ruling,” Richards said.

The biggest complaint from local businesses he’s heard so far, Richards said, is that some groups have been able to apply for waivers from parts of the law.

The law is so massive, however, that it will still likely take a few years before business know exactly how they will be affected, he said.

“Sometimes you never know what you’re getting when things are back-end loaded,” Richards said.

The future is still unclear for other people because part of the Supreme Court’s decision said that the federal government could not withhold money from states for not taking part in the expansion of Medicaid. That expansion is supposed to allow people at 133 percent of the poverty level and below to be covered by Medicaid.

Wrobel said people would have to wait to see not only how the state of Indiana responds to that but also to what kind of health insurance exchange system the state creates. That is supposed to be for people who cannot get insurance through their employer.

The law’s approval also means that full coverage of birth control will go forward. The Catholic Diocese of Gary has spoken out against that provision of the bill, along with many other religious groups nationwide who say the provision violates their religious liberties.

Debbie Bosak, spokeswoman for the diocese, said Thursday that Bishop Dale Melczek was not ready to comment on the court’s ruling because he had not had a chance to read the opinion, which is more than 100 pages.

However, Planned Parenthood of Indiana cheered the court’s order, saying it would provide better health care for Hoosiers. It noted that the public pays $500 million a year for half of the pregnancies in the state.

“This is critical because contraception protects women’s health, saves them money and preserves their personal freedom to decide when, or whether or not, they want to start their families,” the group said in a release.

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