Local experts talk about health care law
Marlinton, W.Va. – The United States Supreme Court recently upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in March 2010. A majority of five justices held that Congress has the Constitutional power to lay and collect taxes, and therefore has the power to require Americans to obtain minimum health insurance coverage or pay a penalty. Four justices held that Congress also has the authority to do so under its Commerce Clause powers.
Beginning in January 2014, most individuals who can afford it will be required to obtain basic health insurance coverage or pay a fee to help offset the costs of caring for uninsured Americans. If affordable coverage is not available to an individual, he or she will be eligible for an exemption. The law creates an insurance exchange, a transparent, competitive insurance marketplace where individuals and small businesses can buy qualified health benefit plans.
Dr. Robert Must is a local physician and chairman of the board of Pocahontas Memorial Hospital. Must says the law will be good for Americans.
“Well, the Affordable Care Act is a piece of legislation that is very political,” he said. “There are a lot of people who have railed against it and there are a lot of people who have studied it in depth. I’ve looked at it a lot and I truly believe that it’s going to help improve health care for most people in the United States.”
The United States spends more on healthcare than any other country in the world but has higher rates of infant mortality, diabetes and other diseases than many other developed countries. A typical hospital visit costs $3,181 in the U.S., more than triple the cost of a hospital visit in France.
Must says something had to be done about skyrocketing health care costs in America.
“It was clear that something had to be done,” he said. “Health care is bankrupting the country. And we’ve been paying billions of dollars for care after all the problems have developed, when our money – the bang for the buck – is a lot less. The health care reform act, one of the many things it’s doing is moving a lot of attention to health care forward, so that we may prevent a lot of that and our health care dollars will go a lot further. People will be healthier. I believe that’s the intent, in large part, behind it.”
Barbara Lay is the chief executive officer at PMH and long-time hospital administrator. Lays hopes the new law allows Americans to be more proactive about their health.
“We’re an industrialized nation,” she said. “We pay the most per capita for health care and yet, we rank thirteenth in our health outcomes, when you look worldwide. And so, I think we really do need to look at how we can change that. How can we make health care accessible to all people. I also believe that we need to be more proactive in health – each of us as individuals. And, hopefully, this will help.”
For a complete description of the law’s provisions and when they take effect, see www.healthcare.gov on the Internet.