Doctors' Groups Applaud Health Care Ruling

A majority of physicians' groups support the ruling; others express concern.

By CHARLES FENG, M.D., ABC News Medical Unit
June 28, 2012, 5:24 PM

June 29, 2012— -- The U.S. Supreme Court's Thursday ruling that the Affordable Care Act, , with its individual mandate, is constitutional has elicited a wide range of opinions from across the medical community.

Most major national medical organizations -- including the American Medical Association, the National Physicians Alliance, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Association of American Medical Colleges -- hail the ruling as a victory. Many of these organizations have been strong supporters of the ACA since Congress passed it in 2010.

"The American Medical Association has long supported health insurance coverage for all, and we are pleased that this decision means millions of Americans can look forward to the coverage they need to get healthy and stay healthy," said Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, president of the American Medical Association.

"At last, the country is moving in a healthy direction on health care," said Dr. Valier Arkoosh, president of the National Physicians Alliance.

However, a handful of medical organizations are not as enthusiastic.

"We cannot overlook provisions like the Independent Payment Advisory Board that threaten the doctor-patient relationship and the administrative burdens within the law that could greatly hinder providers' ability to deliver quality care by infringing upon exam room time," said Dr. John Tongue, president of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

"We are concerned that there are key aspects to this law that will, ultimately, hurt this nation's ability to provide widespread are for its citizens," the American Urological Association, the American Association of Clinical Urologists, and the Large Urology Group Practice Association said in a joint statement.

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the individual mandate, which states that all Americans must have health insurance or else pay a fine. The Court stated that the fine is essentially a tax, giving the government the right to impose it. However, the Court limited the law's ability to expand Medicaid, deciding that the U.S. government cannot withhold a state's Medicaid money if the state doesn't want to participate in the expansion.

The ACA, initially passed through Congress in 2010, could potentially cover more than 30 million people who are currently uninsured in the United States.

The law also has support from a wide range of patient advocacy groups, including the American Cancer Society, the National Organization for Rare Diseases, the American Heart Association, Consumer Reports, and the March of Dimes.

"The ruling is a victory for people with cancer and their families nationwide," said Dr. John Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society.

"[This is] very important to rare disease patients," said Mary Dinkle of the National Organization for Rare Diseases.

The parts of the law that have already been implemented will not be changed. Thus, children can stay on their parents' health insurance until they turn 26, and patients will not have to provide co-payments for preventive care. However, the key piece of the law -- the individual mandate -- will not commence until 2014.

Most Doctors Support ACA Ruling, Too

Just as the ruling has split medical organizations -- albeit unevenly -- it has also polarized physicians. However, the doctors contacted by ABC News expressed relief over the decision.

"This is great news for our patients and for our entire health care system," said Dr. Gary Lyman, professor of medicine at Duke University in Durham, N.C. "The ACA contains many features that will protect current and future patients from the inequities in our health care system. Many of the benefits are yet to be realized but hold great promise for all of us and the next generation of Americans."

"This is an historic day for American health care," said Dr. Ashish Jha, professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. "The Supreme Court has decided that ultimately, these are policy decisionis and it is not the job of the court to decide how to best achieve health care coverage for all Americans."

Other experts see this as a victory for politicians on both sides of the aisle.

"The decision can be seen as a win for both sides. Obama's law stands, and conservatives don't have to worry about a precedent that expands federal power," said Robert Field, professor of health policy at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Health insurance organizations, however, remain wary of the new law.

"The law expands coverage to millions of Americans, a goal health plans have long supported," said Karen Ignagni, CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, "but major provisions, such as the premium tax, will have the unintended consequences of raising costs and disrupting coverage unless they are addressed."

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