Local health providers react to health care ruling

There was a landmark decision Thursday from the Supreme Court on the health care reform law that's going to directly impact your life. The high court upheld the health coverage mandate and soon every American will have to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, unless they meet certain exceptions.

Local residents like Matt Brooks, who don't have health insurance, are wondering what it will mean for them.

"I had health insurance under my mom's plan, she was a Cheboygan Memorial Hospital employee. When she got laid off she lost her health insurance so its been a grey area," said Brooks.

The decision could have huge implications at the Traverse Health Clinic who serves hundreds of uninsured Northern Michigan residents every day.

"The current model of our free clinic as it exists today will no longer be sustainable in the new era of health reform," said Sherri Fenton.

The high court rejected a mandatory expansion of Medicaid, however the federal government can ask states to expand health care benefits for the poor. Fenton says 70 percent of the clinic's patients would be eligible under that scenario.

"The government will be supporting community health centers so we are going through steps now to be a community health center," said Fenton.

The clinic would have to start seeing patients of all ages from infants to seniors, expand the area it currently serves, and implement a pay scale to receive reimbursement. During the transition the clinic expects a budget shortfall between $1.2 million and $1.5 million.

Unlike the Traverse Health Clinic, the area's largest hospital Munson Medical Center doesn't expect much to change.

"We don't have the same issue, in fact we're gong to support the clinic in its transition we know how important the clinic is to community," said Paul Shirilla the Vice President of Munson Medical Center.

Shirilla says they don't expect an influx of patients, just new ways for patients to pay for the care.

"There has been a big focus on prevention primary care. We're actually trying to keep people out of hospitals. We want to use resources for the people most in need," said Shirilla.

Hundreds of thousands of residents in the state have already benefited from the law passed in 2009. According to the federal government 23,000 Michigan seniors and people with disabilities have saved $17.6 million dollars on prescription drugs because of the law. More than half a million Michigan seniors have also received free preventative health care services so far, however many people and health officials 7&4 News spoke with today say they still have a lot of questions about the ruling's impact.