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Niles divided on health care reform decision

Published 5:10pm Thursday, June 28, 2012

There is mixed reaction in Niles to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Thursday to uphold President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Joyce Dreitzler, a Niles senior citizen, said she agrees with all aspects of the legislation except what is arguably its most controversial provision — that virtually all individuals must purchase health insurance or pay a penalty tax.

“I don’t think they should force you to take it. You should have a choice,” Dreitzler said. “Otherwise, it is super — kids can stay on their parent’s plan until they’re 26 and they can’t kick you off if you have a medical condition. The rest of it is great.”

Sixteen-year-old Abby Middleton had an opinion similar to Dreitzler’s.

“I think people should have a choice if they want it or not,” said Dreitzler, who will be a junior at Niles High School in the fall, “but I like the idea that everybody can have health care. That makes sense.”

Sixty-six year old Wayne Martin, owner of Martin’s Yard and Garden in Niles, said he believes requiring most people to get health coverage is a good thing.

“We are all paying to some extent for other people’s health care through increased insurance costs and other ways,” Martin said. “I don’t know how practical it is, and I don’t agree with everything, but I think it’s a good first step.”

The nine Supreme Court justices were tasked Thursday with deciding if the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, was constitutional. The vote was close, passing by a 5-4 ruling.

At the heart of the debate is the question of whether or not it is constitutional for the government to force individuals to purchase health insurance. The Supreme Court determined it is constitutional to do so, as long as the penalty for not purchasing health insurance is a tax.

Senator John Proos, R-St. Joseph, said the court’s ruling sets a dangerous precedent.

“I think it is a very concerning precedent where the federal government, or government in general, can impose a tax for the purpose of compelling an individual to act … by virtue of their pocketbook or to act in a manner the government deems fit,” he said.

Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, disagreed with the court’s ruling, saying in a released statement the law is unaffordable, unworkable and must be repealed.

“One of the mistakes of Obamacare was that it tried to fix every problem in the health care system with one massive new law crafted in Washington,” Upton said. “And we ended up with an unpopular and unworkable law because its authors failed to listen to the American people and failed to address the most pressing challenge to our health care system in rising costs.”

Rep. Sharon Tyler, R-Niles, joined Proos and Upton in speaking against the court’s ruling.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., were in favor of the decision.

The law contains several provisions, including one prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and another allowing children to remain on their family policy until the age of 26.

It also allows for the expansion of Medicaid, provides tax credits to small businesses that provide health insurance and limits the amount of money insurance companies can spend on overhead, salaries and marketing, according to John Freeman, director of Know Your Care Michigan. Businesses can also be fined for not providing health coverage for employees.

The law takes full effect in 2014.

Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan ruled in favor of the health care law. Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were dissenting.

LOCAL POLITICIAN REACTION

Here’s a small portion of what local politicians had to say about Thursday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold President Obama’s health care law.

Rep. Sharon Tyler, R-Niles:

“I’m extremely disappointed with the Court’s decision. I believe that health care decisions should be an individual choice between a patient and a doctor, without the federal government interfering. I also believe that tax hikes are not the answer as many middle-class families in Michigan were already struggling to make ends meet even before this ruling.”

Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph:

“I think it is a very concerning precedent where the federal government or government in general can impose a tax for the purpose of compelling an individual to act, compelling an individual to act by virtue of their pocketbook or to act in a manner the government deems fit.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.:

“Today the Supreme Court upheld important protections for Michigan families, including lower prescription drug prices for seniors, access to maternity care and mammograms for women, tools for Michigan small businesses to lower their health care costs, and coverage for children with preexisting conditions.”

Con. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph:

“One of the mistakes of Obamacare was that it tried to fix every problem in the health care system with one massive new law crafted in Washington. And we ended up with an unpopular and unworkable law because its authors failed to listen to the American people and failed to address the most pressing challenge to our health care system in rising costs.”

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.:

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is an important step toward universal health care coverage, which is long overdue. It ensures that millions of Americans who have health insurance will be more able to depend on their coverage without fear of losing it to the whims of an insurance company. I have always believed in the law’s ability to make a real and positive difference in peoples’ lives, and I’m gratified that the court’s decision protects the interests of American families who have so much to gain from health insurance reform.”

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