Last week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold nearly all of President Obama’s health care, came as a bitter pill to opponents.
But Republicans in Richmond County and across the nation have suggested a remedy — repeal the law.
“I’m hoping that we’ll be able to overturn the entire legislation,” said Tim Watson, vice chair of the Richmond County Republican Party.
The plan, called the Affordable Care Act, was signed two years ago. It requires insurance plans to cover preventative services and stops insurance companies from dropping sick clients. The entire plan is set to begin in 2014.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the plan was designed to “reduce overall health care costs by making services available to the 32 million who currently can’t get insurance. They often use a hospital emergency room as their primary care physician, increasing costs for everyone.”
But many conservatives maintain that the deficit will not be reduced, but will increase by $500 billion over the next 10 years. Critics also believe that new taxes, penalties and fees will discourage businesses from growing. They also say that the federal government will force 18 million uninsured Americans to go on Medicaid and half of the people using Medicare Advantage will lose coverage.
“We can’t afford this, we’re trillions of dollars in debt now. It’s just not practical, and the majority of Americans don’t want this,” Watson said. “Take a look at Europe - countries with socialized medical care are going broke. It doesn’t work, and we are not a socialist nation.”
Opponents also argue that forcing states to accept federally mandated health insurance is a violation of states’ rights.
On June 28, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that the federal government does not have the Constitutional right to force people to buy health insurance from a private company. However, Congress does have the right to tax those that don’t, the court said.
Officials with the Richmond County Democrat Party could not be reached for comment.
Supporters say the health care overhaul will expand the income requirement so that more working poor can receive Medicaid benefits, which federal officials will pay the states to dole out.
The states do not have to participate in this, but it is believed that many will, since it will be subsidized. People who do not qualify for that will receive tax credits. Insurance companies cannot deny children with pre-existing conditions or drop coverage for a person who becomes sick. Parents can put their children, up to age 26, on their health insurance coverage. People with existing coverage will keep it, and businesses will still be able to offer company coverage.
The plan does not apply to businesses with less than 50 employees, but larger companies are required to offer insurance. Businesses will receive tax credits to help employees pay premiums. The act is expected to lower the budget deficit by $143 billion over the next 10 years by “raising some taxes and shifting more cost burdens,” according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Local health care providers said last week’s ruling provides clarity, but declined to discuss the merits of the act.
“FirstHealth, along with hospitals across the nation, has been awaiting the decision from the Supreme Court on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” David J. Kilarski, CEO of FirstHealth of the Carolinas, said in a statement. “Providers have been preparing for the law for the past two years, and this decision clarifies the direction of our health system.”
Kilarski suggested that the decision should not impact the hospital’s quality and cost-savings initiatives.
“There are some changes to the Medicaid portion of the law,” he said. “We will work with our state and national associations as that part of the ruling is analyzed and determine if there are implications for FirstHealth.”
Administrators at Sandhills Regional Medical Center in Hamlet released their own statement.
“Sandhills Regional Medical Center provides compassionate, high quality care for our patients, and nothing in today’s ruling affects that,” the statement said. “As for the ruling, it does remove some legal uncertainty that has been a headwind for the industry, but we also know this discussion will continue, politically, through the fall. We stand ready to work with Congress on any meaningful changes they choose to consider.”
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.