Health care ruling met mostly with praise

Norman Deitch, 68, visiting from De Leon Springs, Fla., has doubts about the mandate, but not about Medicare, which he backs strongly.
Norman Deitch, 68, visiting from De Leon Springs, Fla., has doubts about the mandate, but not about Medicare, which he backs strongly.
Posted: June 29, 2012

Inquirer staff writers Allyn Gaestel, Meeri Kim and Jessica Parks went to three locations Thursday to gauge reaction to the Supreme Court's ruling on the health-care law.

Joy in Camden

Cries of "Amen!" "Alleluia!" and "Praise the Lord" rang out in front of St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Thursday morning as members of Camden Churches Organized for People (CCOP) praised the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act.

"It's a death sentence lifted for me," said the Rev. Marilyn Dixon-Hill, a CCOP member.

She has been living with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a nerve disorder, since 2010. Since she first felt numbing in her feet, hands, and lips two years ago, she has lost her job and been unable to afford commercial health insurance or the expensive care.

She said the act had given her new hope because it prohibits insurers from discriminating against patients with preexisting conditions. She is anticipating buying insurance from a public marketplace where consumers will be able to compare health plans.

New Jersey has received funding to plan a state exchange, but Gov. Christie vetoed a bill last month that would have established it. The Republican cited uncertainty about the constitutionality of the law ahead of the Supreme Court decision.

What Penn experts said

With a broken air conditioner on a sweltering 92-degree day, six University of Pennsylvania health policy experts sat before a packed auditorium at the Leonard Davis Institute to discuss the impact of the decision.

Jonathan T. Kolstad, assistant professor of health-care management at the Wharton School, noted that much of the health law was modeled on that of Massachusetts, where the individual mandate led to healthier people signing up, not merely drawing in sicker people, as critics of the law believed would happen.

Nursing professor Mary Naylor said a new set of financial incentives needs to be created for providers to put patients first. The current system keeps patients juggling too many complications during the most vulnerable times in their lives, she said.

And Tom Baker, deputy dean at Penn Law, noted that "there's an enormous amount of money in [the law] for states that will cooperate" in implementing it. Maryland and Colorado are further ahead than other states, he said, and the states often known as "red states" are "quietly preparing." Some states will opt not to expand Medicaid, Baker said, but if they choose not to, it will be a political decision rather than a logical or even a financial one.

View from Independence Hall

Norman Deitch, 68, of De Leon Springs, Fla., is not too happy about the individual mandate, but he's hugely in favor of Medicare.

"It's been great. I'm totally happy with it," the retiree said while visiting Independence Hall. He noted that he had just been diagnosed with a rare spinal cord disease. "I paid for this [insurance]. To be denied it would be a big deal."

Nurse Therese Porter, 56, was visiting from Houston. "We were all pretty surprised and disappointed," she said of the decision.

Still, she supports the provision to keep young adults on their parents' plan until age 26. "It's more the individual mandate that rubs me the wrong way," she said.

Kayla Langston, 54, from Austin, Texas, said she thought the court ruling was "great." Her husband is self-employed and had to buy insurance on the expensive individual market.

"We pay, like, $200 a month, but we have a huge $10,000 deductible. Not a lot of people can do that," she said.

Kristi Kilpatrick, 26, of Davis, Calif., said she is unemployed and doesn't have insurance. "Yeah, it worries me," she said.

"I actually got a cut this year on my finger that I really thought was going to require stitches. I butterfly-bandaged it and hoped for the best. It was OK, but it would've been really nice to just get it checked out and make sure."


Contact Allyn Gaestel at agaestel@philly.com, Meeri Kim at mkim@philly.com, and Jessica Parks at jparks@philly.com.

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