While politicians and legal scholars debated the fine points of Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act, South Sound residents generally reacted with a cautious sigh of relief.
In a sampling of interviews and online comments, some expressed concern about increased government control in medical care and creeping socialism, but more said they are optimistic that the new law will bring relief from exorbitant health care costs and the power of insurance companies.
“The mandate that everyone must have health insurance is just common sense,” said Margaret Buchanan of Gig Harbor. “Health care isn’t something you can choose whether or not to use when you need it. It’s not like auto insurance. You’ll live without repairing your damaged car, but you’ll die if your malignant brain tumor isn’t removed.”
Like several others, Buchanan said she hopes the full implementation of the ACA will relax the confrontational approach of insurance companies.
Her daughter is a childhood cancer survivor, Buchanan said, and she’s spent years struggling with insurers’ requirements.
“From the first week of her diagnosis and surgery, the insurance company stepped up to deny whenever and however possible,” she said.
Her daughter faces continuing health issues from cancer treatment, Buchanan said, and she recently was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor.
“I’m relieved that she can’t be denied future health care under a pre-existing condition clause,” Buchanan said.
Grace Land of Tacoma also said she was relieved when she heard the court’s decision.
“It’s been a dream of ours,” she said.
Land said her family already has benefitted from parts of the ACA currently in effect.
Her niece, a 19-year-old student at Pacific Lutheran University, has scoliosis, a pre-existing condition in the eyes of insurance companies.
Thanks to the ACA, Land said, her niece will be able to stay on her parent’s health plan until she turns 26 and won’t be denied coverage later because of her pre-existing condition.
Land said her husband, who’s on Medicare, spends significantly less on prescription drugs since the ACA passed.
Land works as a medical technician at Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, and she said she believes the ACA will help hospitals save money by reducing inappropriate use of emergency rooms.
“It will clear up our ERs,” she said. “With the preventative care that people will be able to afford now, they won’t have to use the emergency rooms because they’ll be able to afford to go and see a doctor.”
Aleta Day, 65, of University Place is not so optimistic.
“I’ve been trying to read parts of the 2,000-plus documents regarding this plan, and it’s impossible to truly understand what this health care program will mean to me personally,” Day wrote in an email.
Day has put off retiring from her job with the Department of Defense, she said, because she doesn’t believe she’ll be able to afford adequate insurance when she retires.
The ACA might improve that situation, she said, but not if medical costs keep rising.
“If there could somehow be sanctions placed on the insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies and the American Medical Association to keep the cost of health care reasonable, then I think every American would benefit and not be afraid when they are involved in an accident or illness,” Day said.
David Erhardt of Tacoma was more critical.
“Hopefully a Republican Senate and House will overturn this law in 2013, with President (Mitt) Romney signing it,” Erhardt comment on The News Tribune’s website.
He said he was particularly disappointed in Chief Justice John Roberts, who broke with the conservative bloc of justices to cast the deciding vote upholding the law.
“What Justice Roberts’ mind was in his thinking, I just can’t figure. He did say it was a tax that we are required to pay or get fined,” Erhardt said. “In other words, I am required as a citizen of the United States to purchase health insurance. Seceding from the U.S. sounds like a good idea right now.”