Niles residents weigh in on health care billPublished 8:00am Tuesday, March 23, 2010
By AARON MUELLER
Niles Daily Star
By this time, it is clear where the politicians stand on the issue of health care reform. If there is a D by his name, chances are he thinks the passage of the health care reform legislation would be “historic.” If there is an R by her name, it would be a drastic mistake.
Legislation passed the House of Representatives Sunday night that would extend health care to tens of millions of uninsured Americans. The House passed it with a package of changes from the Senate version.
Debate in the Senate was expected to begin today. If the bill is approved without changes, it will head straight to President Obama’s desk, where he would assuredly sign it.
The Republican legislators unanimously opposed the bill.
But more important than what the politicians and political pundits say is the opinion of Americans. And right now, the country appears divided.
According to the most recent Rasmussen Report survey, 54 percent oppose President Obama’s health care plan, while 41 percent are in favor. The public is pretty evenly divided down party lines too. 74 percent of Democrats favor the plan, while 87 percent of Republicans are opposed. For those who are not affiliated with either party, 59 percent are opposed and 34 percent support it.
Niles residents definitely have their opinions as well.
Al Bradley, a landlord in Niles, says it’s about time.
“It’s a long time coming,” he said. “It should have been passed years ago. If it would have been passed years ago, it wouldn’t be as expensive as it is. It informs people that they must have health insurance. It will make it cheaper for companies if everybody has to have it, because everyone will pay in.”
Nick Britten, an admissions specialist at Lake Michigan College and Niles resident, feels differently.
“I don’t like that we don’t know what’s in the bill really,” he said. “I don’t like the procedure they went through. It seemed like they cut some corners to get it done.”
Sarah Britten, a small business owner in Niles, was discussing the issue with Nick and had similar sentiments.
“Whenever you involve the government in something like that, it’s probably just going to raise costs for the most part and I think end up leading to worse health care,” she said.
According to the Rasmussen Poll, 57 percent of people agree with Britten that if the plan passes, the cost of health care will increase. Only 17 percent believe the plan will actually reduce the cost of care.
As a business owner, Britten also is concerned on what the legislation would mean to her business.
“As a local business owner, they usually end up having this stuff fall back on employers and that means I’m going to have to raise prices for my customers,” she said. “I won’t be able to pay my employees as much, because I’m going to be paying so much for health care for them.”
Others interviewed Monday afternoon did not have opinions because they did not understand the bill or weren’t keeping up to date with the latest news.
Matt Smith, a student at Southwestern Michigan College, said he has read the news with great interest about the topic but hasn’t formulated an opinion.
“There is so much differing information out there,” he said. “It sounds good on paper, but the Republicans have some good arguments against it.”
Smith just hopes that if the bill passes, it will be effective in getting him better, more affordable health care.
“I’m a student. I’m also married and have kids, so I have to work for my health insurance plan,” Smith said. “It hurts me because I can’t do a full five classes a semester, because I have to work part-time. I have trouble finding work that will allow me to have health insurance.”
Smith also said he is getting tired of the constant bickering among politicians over the issue.
“I was watching ABC this morning and saw the politicians fighting,” he said. “I mean, they were angry at each other. You could see it in their faces and in their words.”
What the legislation would do:
— Require nearly every American to be insured or pay a fine with an exemption for low-income people.
— Extend coverage to 32 million Americans without it, and if fully realized, coverage would include 95 percent of all those eligible under age 65.
— Expand the Medicaid insurance program to require coverage for people with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
— The insurance industry would no longer be allowed to place lifetime dollar limits on policies, from denying coverage to children for pre-existing conditions and from canceling policies due to sickness.
— Parents would be able to keep children on their coverage up to age 26.
- Proponents of the legislation estimate the measure could cut deficits by $138 billion in the next 10 years.
- The measure also calls for more than $400 billion in taxes over the course of 10 years, about half of it from a Medicare payroll tax on individuals with incomes more than $200,000 and couples over $250,000.