'Joyous Day' For S.J. Backers

Courier-Post — Friday, June 29, 2012

Written by
Courier-Post Staff

Health care organizations and citizen action groups in South Jersey on Thursday applauded a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the nation's health reform law.

"Today, a sigh of relief for the future of health care," said Betsy Ryan, chief executive officer of the New Jersey Hospital Association. Ryan admitted to a "bad case of nerves" before the High Court's decision became public Thursday morning, but said she was "quite thrilled" at the measure's survival.

Advocates said the law promises to expand health care to millions of people and ultimately to ease costs in the medical field. But observers also said the law's survival means health care providers can continue on their current path, rather than having to start all over again.

"I think no disruption is better than disruption," said John Sheridan, president of Cooper Health System in Camden.

Dr. Mary Campagnolo, director of the New Jersey Medical Society, said her group was pleased for its patients that the court upheld key provisions of the law.

"This could increase competition and remove barriers in the health care insurance market so that more uninsured New Jersey residents may purchase affordable health care insurance with transparent terms," said Campagnolo, chief of the Department of Family Medicine at Virtua Memorial Hospital in Mount Holly.

Members of Camden Churches Organized for People celebrated the law's survival within an hour of the court's announcement. Members held signs and chanted "Reform is here," during a rally outside St. Paul's Episcopal Church at 4th and Market streets.

The Rev. Heyward Wiggins III of Camden Bible Tabernacle Church called Thursday a "joyous day" and said the court decision was a "godsend."

Because of the new law, Wiggins said, "people have paid less for prescription drugs through Medicare, received free preventive services and remained insured instead of losing coverage due to lifetime limits on health costs."

New Jersey Citizen Action spokesman Jeff Brown said his consumer group was elated. "While many are going to say the ruling was a victory for the president, the real winners are the 30 million Americans who will now be guaranteed access to quality and affordable health care coverage and countless others who will get better value for their existing coverage."

Martin A. Bieber, president and CEO of Kennedy Health System, said health care providers already have invested greatly in reform efforts. "Today's ruling ensures that those efforts can continue to move forward uninterrupted," he said.

"While this law has its supporters and its detractors, there is widespread agreement that our national health care system is unsustainable on its current course and that changes are needed to make health care delivery more coordinated and cost-effective," said Bieber.

"Is this bill perfect? Nobody's saying it is," said Sheridan at Cooper. But he added, "The known is better than the unknown."

A Cooper doctor who has been working to solve the health care woes of impoverished Camden residents said it was time to stop debating the reform measure.

"It's a great day to be an American, a doctor and a patient," said Dr. Jeff Brenner, executive director of the Camden Coalition of Health Care Providers.

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