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Emotions Mixed over health care

By Staff | Jul 6, 2012

Local reaction to last week’s ruling by the Supreme Court upholding the Health Care Act has ranged from complete support to confusion on what the decision may mean on a personal level.

The ruling came as a surprise to some when Justice John Roberts broke with the court’s conservative judges to uphold the Act.

Roberts announced the judgment that allows the law to go forward with its aim of covering more than 30 million uninsured Americans. Roberts said that the mandate requiring all to purchase health insurance or be penalized can be seen as a tax and is therefore allowable by law.

“Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness,” Roberts said.

Roberts was joined in the vote by Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Opposing the decision were Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Kennedy summarized the dissent for the opposition saying, “In our view, the act before us is invalid in its entirety.”

Senator Jay Rockefeller praised the court’s decision, not so much for the politics but because of the people that he says will benefit from the law. He outlined what he said are key pieces to the act that will benefit West Virginians in a press release issued after the decision was handed down.

“First, everyone who already has insurance gets to keep it but with crucial new protections agains tinsuarnce companies that put profits before people. Second, those who don’t have insurance because they can’t afford it will get new coverage options and help to buy private insurance. Third, those who don’t have insurance even though they can afford it the so-called ‘free riders’ will have to get insurance or pay a fee on their tax returns.”

Rockefeller stated that in the days ahead, nearly 180,000 West Virginians, most of whom are currently uninsured, will get assistance to purchase private health insurance through a new health insurance marketplace. He also outlined other portions of the act that he sees as beneficial to the Mountain State including more than 18,000 young West Virginians (ages 21-26) who can now stay on their parent’s insurance policies; West Virginia seniors who will receive savings of more than $46.5 million on their prescription drugs and free preventive services for more than 230,000 residents.

Locally, residents are not sure what the act really means for them.

Netta Paulson, an 80-year-old semi-retired speech therapist from Shenandoah Junction, said she’s spoken to many seniors since the Supreme Court ruling who remain confused about how the Affordable Health Care Act will impact them.

“They should have simplified it considerably,” she said of Congress’s 2,400 page bill.

Though Paulson can afford private insurance, she said she worries about other seniors who cannot afford to buy their own and are unclear on what their options are under the new law.

“They don’t know what they can do about it,” she said.

Jimmy Horn, a 20-year-old junior at Shepherd University, said he has followed the progression of the Affordable Health Care plan from the beginning and he’s happy the high court upheld its constitutionality.

“I think it’s really good because it allows kids to be on their paretn’s health care plan longer, so that helps out college-age people like me,” he said. Though he’s pleased overall with the law’s new aspects, Horn said he wishes it had gone a step further. “My only disappointment with it is that there’s not a public option,” he said.

Shepherdstown resident and stay-at-home mom Lynn Wright said she hadn’t heard about the court’s decision because she chooses not to watch the news.

“It’s too much drama,” she said.

Wright said that though she wasn’t following the recent ruling, she s been concerned about how America’s health care system affects her and her family.

“The kids are the one’s suffering,” she said.

Uninsured herself, she explained that her husband, who works as an electrician, pays $80 a month for insurance through his job but it doesn’t cover enough in her opinion.

“It’s too much for him to be paying and them not wanting to pay nothing,” she said.

She explained that under their current insurance, her husband chooses not to make necessary trips to the doctor or emergency room because the cost for care is still too great.

“I doctor him at home,” she said.

Janice Curbow, a nurse at Loudoun Hospital Center in nearby Virginia, said that she is concerned that the act will likely allow non-qualified individuals to determine what treatment will be authorized. She also said that the plan does nothing that she is aware of to curb increasing costs of malpractice insurance for those in the medical profession.

“This act will increase the number of patients in a field with a decreasing number of professionals,” she said. “And having someone who is not qualified to make medical treatment decisions will only increase the instances of malpractice suits,” she said. “When someone suffers because of a decision made by a government bureaucrat,” she said, “it will be the doctor who will be sued.”

It is not clear, yet, how the specifics of the act will be enforced or what the specifics of the act may actually be.

WVUH-East issued a statement indicating they will “continue our ongoing efforts to provide Eastern Panhandle residents access to high-quality, affordable health care services. We will continue existing efforts to increase efficiency across the continuum of care and focus more on prevention and wellness initiatives.”