RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY
PDT Staff Writer
By a vote of 5-4 on Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld the vast majority of the Affordable Health Care Act presented by President Barack Obama and passed by Congress in 2010. The law requires that virtually all Americans have health insurance, aiming at 30 million uninsured people.
The Court said the mandate can be construed as a tax, and “Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness,” Chief Justice John Roberts said.
Christine Eaton, Health Clinic Director at Scioto County Community Action, said she was happy that the Court upheld the law, and said it will help their operations by reducing the number of uninsured or under-insured patients they to whom they provide treatment.
“The majority of the clients that come into the clinic have Medicaid or Medicare, so basically they are insured,” Eaton said. “We probably are running 35 percent at times of uninsured, unable to pay for anything, clients. I can only do so many uninsured visits in a day because we operate with Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement and that reimbursement helps me pay for those that have nothing. So if I’ve got a 35 percent uninsured rate and it goes to 15, that gives me more money to help pay for those 15.”
She said she didn’t believe the Supreme Court should be able to overturn a law once its been passed by Congress.
“I don’t think the average individual knows what’s in this health care bill. I don’t think the Obama Administration has done a very good job of explaining it to us,” she said. “I think that there has been a lot of money put into showing the downside of this, and there hasn’t been a lot of money put into showing the good side.”
But not everyone in Scioto County agrees with Eaton that this will be a good thing for our community.
“The mandate forcing Americans into obligatory purchasing healthcare insurance emerges not under the commerce clause, but as a tax. So by right this makes it an unconstitutional clause…. but hey they found a new way to tax us!” said Rich Broughton on the Daily Times Facebook page.
Donna Kazee said it isn’t right to punish people who have to choose putting food on their table over purchasing insurance.
“I know for me, this issue is already causing additional anxiety for me and my family. What ever happened to being free to make on own decisions in America?” she said.
Local small businesses are also concerned. Under the new law, any business with more than 25 employees will be required to offer health insurance, or pay a fine. Mark Litteral owns several businesses in the area, and is now opening another — Ray’s Texas BBQ in New Boston. He said the law is difficult on small businesses, like himself, trying to expand.
“We struggle to make a profit as it is to keep our business open and keep our people employed. Now the federal government has stepped in and made it even harder for us to do that by tying our hands and saying we have to pay this or pay a penalty. I don’t feel like that’s a productive way of going about trying to bring jobs back to this country,” Litteral said.
He said that under the new law it would be better for businesses to give an employee overtime hours rather than hiring more people.
“I’m talking about companies trying to expand like we are, because those companies are hiring people. It’s people like us out there trying to hire people, now we have to think about do we want to hire more than 25 employees? How much are we going to to expand and we cut our hours back or do we raise our prices,” Litteral said.
Despite public fears, Charlie Wilson — former U.S. Representative from Ohio’s 6th Congressional District now asking voters to return him in November — says it will only help the residents of southeastern Ohio.
According to Wilson, up to 267,000 individuals, including as many as 31,000 children, with pre-existing conditions in district will be protected under the law. He said the law will also grant access to a health care tax credit that was previously not available to 11,300 small businesses and 174,000 families in the district; provide preventative care benefits to 116,000 seniors where there were none before; lower the cost of prescription drugs for 9,200 seniors, and provide $49 million in annual savings to our local hospitals.
“The donut hole is closed, the cost of prescription drugs are lower, and families can keep children on their parents’ plan until the age of 26,” Wilson said.
But Wilson’s challenger, Republican incumbent Rep. Bill Johnson (OH-6), disagrees with the Supreme Court ruling and says he will continue to fight against it.
“Since making my first vote to repeal Obamacare, I’ve said that Obamacare is bad policy and bad medicine. While the Supreme Court found that the law is constitutional, it’s still bad policy and bad medicine,” Johnson said.
The court found problems with the law’s expansion of Medicaid, but even there said the expansion could proceed as long as the federal government does not threaten to withhold states’ entire Medicaid allotment if they don’t take part in the law’s extension.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 235, or firstname.lastname@example.org.