(Updated) Howard County Officials on Health Care Decision: ‘Hard Work Ahead’
‘We will be both the educator and the navigator for enrollment.’ - Dr. Peter Beilenson, Howard County Health Officer.
This story was updated at 2:30 p.m. to include more reaction from Howard County leaders.
Howard County officials applauded Thursday’s Supreme Court decision, saying it would provide coverage for “hundreds of thousands of Maryland residents,” but cautioned that hard work was ahead to connect people to health insurance.
On Twitter, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said:
"#ACA is upheld & lots of hard work ahead. Looking forward to using the Healthy Howard model to connect Marylanders w/afford. care they need."
Ulman was referring to the Healthy Howard nonprofit organization, which has made national headlines for its health plan that has provided health services to 1,700 uninsured residents since it starting enrolling people in 2008. The organization has also linked uninsured residents to other health insurance programs for which they are eligible.
Dr. Peter Beilenson, Howard County's health officer, said Thursday that now that health insurance is mandatory, Howard County’s program to provide health services to uninsured residents would expire in January of 2014.
Beilenson also said that the nonprofit would now increase its focus on explaining how the health care law works for residents.
“The … [law] is complex,” he said. “Because it’s been bandied about as a political football, nobody knows quite what it is. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled this is the law of the land, we can start explaining it to the average citizen what it means.
“We will be both the educator and the navigator for enrollment.”
Beilenson praised the Supreme Court decision.
“The Affordable Care Act can now move forward and provide new coverage and health care for hundreds of thousands of Maryland residents, which will give them security and peace of mind,” he said in a press release. “Today’s Supreme Court ruling will benefit many of our friends, relatives and neighbors.”
Republican State Sen. Allan Kittleman, who represents Howard and Carroll counties, said he was “disappointed” by the Supreme Court’s decision.
“I’m glad the court said it violated the Commerce Act,” he said. “My concern--it seems the justices have stretched to find it valid under the power of taxing authority.”
Kittleman also said the decision would catapult health care into the presidential election debate.
“I think it’s going to be one of the, if not the biggest issue in the election,” Kittleman told Patch. “It could be an albatross to hang around the president’s neck and make it difficult for re-election.”
In an informal Patch poll in Howard and Carroll counties this week, 54 percent said the Supreme Court should overturn the law.
One commenter said “Constitutionality aside, how does Obamacare fix anything? You can [have] three types of health care: cheap, quick and good. But, you can only have two at a time. Obamacare will not change that fundamental constraint.
Nikki Highsmith Vernick, president and CEO of The Horizon Foundation in Columbia, said her organization is among those that will be distributing information in the area about the impact of the health care law.
“We’d like to be neutral and objective--non partisan, and we would like to be a source of information for both individuals and business in the county, working closely with Healthy Howard and the [Howard County] health department, the Chamber and the Economic Development Authority,” she said.
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