Health insurance is a necessity for all, but mandates that citizens buy insurance or pay a penalty may be cause for concern, Big Island residents and visitors said Thursday.
“It’s unconstitutional,” said JoAnn Richardson, who is visiting Kailua-Kona from Washington state. “It’s a good idea for everyone to have insurance, but it’s unconstitutional to force people to do it.”
Richardson, who said she has been following the 2010 Affordable Care Act over the years, noted that the law may create too much government involvement in people’s lives.
However, she said the law has some good points too, including that it will make people who can afford insurance but don’t have it purchase the coverage.
Richardson said rather than force people to buy insurance, the federal government should create a system like MassHealth in Massachusetts that makes insurance available to those who can’t afford it.
“With a federal program like that in place, you wouldn’t have to force people to buy it,” she explained. “Just make it available.”
Richardson was just one of a handful of residents and visitors in the Kona area who provided input on the Affordable Care Act upheld Thursday by the U.S. Supreme Court. Input ranged from the law being unconstitutional to being the “greatest thing ever to happen to America.”
In a 5-4 vote, the court upheld President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul with the help of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts.
Roberts’ vote, along with those of the court’s four liberal justices, preserved the largest expansion of the nation’s social safety net in more than 45 years, including that nearly everyone have health insurance or pay a penalty.
The aim is to extend coverage to more than 30 million uninsured people.
Willie Kaupiko, a Kailua-Kona resident and Vietnam War veteran, was ecstatic about the court’s upholding of the law. He also expressed his dislike of Republicans and presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s call for the law to be repealed if he is elected.
“Hooray for Obama and having 100 percent health coverage,” he exclaimed. “It’s the greatest thing ever to happen to America.”
While he said he is excited that the law will help take care of the middle class and veterans, he noted the country will still have to wait and see if the law, as written, is actually put into effect.
“Talk is cheap; putting it down on paper is different,” he said. “We’ll have to see when it goes into effect and mark (Obama’s) words.”
Eddie Ahuna, another Kailua-Kona resident, said every American should have insurance and the law is a good thing, but in the long term, the law’s requirements for insurance companies likely cannot be sustained unless some free-market competition is allowed.
He pointed to Greece and other European countries that have instituted universal or state health insurance systems as examples of government control of health care becoming too expensive.
“The price and service of a commodity is done by supply and demand — not mandated by a state,” he said. “I believe that the private sector side would make it more affordable to people. They’d have to compete on prices for services.”
He also added that while he supports the American ideal of making individual decisions, the ruling is a very positive note for the United States because it shows that despite conservative or liberal ties, working together is important.
“Roberts realized that this is beyond emotions,” he said. “It’s now in the president’s hands — let him determine how it will go from here.”