2010-04-02 / Front Page

Local Reaction To Health Care Reform Bill

By Howard Schwach
One-time Democratic leader in the House of Representatives Tip O’Neill famously said, “all politics is local.”

If that is true, the health reform bill just signed into law by President Barak Obama is not universally loved by locals who were willing to speak with The Wave about the issue.

Harold Cornell, 79, is a retired business executive who now works alongside his wife, Arlene, a noted watercolorist.

“There are lots of things that are starting to come out only now, after the bill was passed and signed,” says Cornell, a registered Democrat for the past 58 years. “Now, I get my medication from the company I worked for. They may stop doing that now that they won’t get a tax credit any longer. Where am I going to get affordable medication? I worry about that.”

His wife, Arlene, is even stronger in her opposition to the new law and the philosophy of the president who pushed it through Congress.

“I’m jumping out of my skin,” Cornell said. “What we are instituting is socialized medicine, which hasn’t worked anywhere in the world. Obama is trying to socialize the country – look at the banks, health care, nationalized school curriculum and the ‘Race to the Top’ plan. I don’t like it at all.”

“One day, we are all going to wake up and find out that the federal government has taken all of our power away, and our grandchildren will suffer.”

Both of the Cornell’s are angry about the federal legislators who voted for the bill.

“I called [Congressman Anthony] Weiner dozens of times and he never returned my calls,” Harold Cornell said. “I just got a recorded message thanking me for my input. I want the same health care package that Congress has. If they are going to vote for a new health care package for us, that is the least they could do.”

“This is not my Democratic Party, the party of Harry Truman,” he added. “If I were 20 years younger, I would run against Weiner.”

Not everybody agrees the bill is bad.

Wall Street broker Thomas O’Connor was going to catch an A-Train at the Rockaway Park station on Tuesday morning, when The Wave caught up to him.

“O’Connor, who says that he “lived comfortably” up to the financial crash last year, likes the new law.

“I have two college-age kids who can now stay on my health insurance for an additional three years. That will save me lots of money,” he said. “My parents, who are in their 80s now get into the donut hole in July or August every year, and we wind up paying all their drug costs for the rest of the year. Last year, that added up to about $6,000 out-of-pocket. The bill closes that problem over the next couple of years, and they get $250 to use for their drugs right away. I think, overall, that it is a good start to get everybody covered.”

Officials for the Peninsula Hospital Center said that, while the bill is “not perfect, it allows 32 million more people to be insured and to be able to receive the medical care which will make us a healthier nation overall.”

“The bill does contain certain provisions which take money away from hospitals that serve a disproportionate share of the uninsured and underinsured as well as some other provisions which we clearly hope will be fixed in the months to come,” said Liz Sulik, PHC’s Director of External Affairs.

Congressman Anthony Weiner, who led the drive to pass the bill in the House of Representatives and who represents parts of Rockaway in that body, has received both approbation and threats for his support of health care reform.

Right after the vote, his Kew Gardens office received a letter filled with a suspicious white powder. The accompanying letter specifically mentioned the health care bill. While the powder turned out to be harmless, several of Weiner’s staffers had to be decontaminated.

On the other hand, Weiner has become a media darling, with appearances in major television shows, such as the Bill O’Reilly Show on Fox.

Political insiders say that the exposure will help him when he runs for Mayor in three years.

“There isn’t a day that I don’t go to work in this job that I’m not thinking about how I can fight for my city,” Weiner told Daily News reporter Celeste Katz. “I’m sure I’ll still feel that way in 2013.”

Weiner told The Wave that working on the health bill and getting it passed was like “being pregnant for 17 months.”

“The bill is not exactly what I wanted,” Weiner said. “I pushed long and hard for the public option and I think that will eventually become part of the bill. But, we have new protections and more people will be able to come on board at a lower cost.”

According to a CNN poll out late last week, the nation feels very much like Rockaway about the health care reform package.

Nearly half of the Americans (47 percent) questioned want to repeal the law. Fifty percent would either leave the law as it is or support more extensive government-run reforms.

At press time, attorneys general in 13 states have announced that they would challenge the new law on constitutional grounds.

New York State is not one of them.

“Congress lacks the constitutional power to force people in the states to buy health insurance,” said Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli.

Health Care Reform At A Glance: What It Means To You

* Spends $938 billion over 10 years.
* Officials say it will cut deficit by $138 billion
over 10 years.
* For individuals, in 2014, $95 or 1 percent of
income, whichever is greater, going up to $695 or
2.5 percent in 2016.
* For business firms with 50 or more employees, a
fine of $2,000 per employee.
* Medicaid expanded to cover everybody with an income of
133 percent of the poverty level, or $29,327 for a family of
* Tax credits for purchasing employee health insurance on a
sliding scale for households earning up to four times the poverty
level, or $88,200 for a family of four.
* Slashes $500 million from the Medicare fund.
* Closes the “donut hole” in coverage for Part D drug benefits over
the next ten years. Provides payment of $250 to those seniors who
are in the donut hole each year.
* Provides $132 billion saving from Medicare Advantage (a private
alternative to Medicare).
* Young people can stay on their parent’s insurance up to age 26, an additional three years.
* Young people cannot be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.
* Provides coverage for an additional 32 million Americans — approximately 95 percent of all
* Establishes Health Exchanges, for small business people, the self-employed and people who don’t
get coverage through their employers.
* Insurers cannot deny insurance due to pre-existing conditions.
* Requires that every American get health insurance or pay a penalty.
* Sets up pool for high-risk Americans.
* Bars insurers from putting lifetime caps on insurance coverage payouts.
* New 3.8 percent Medicare tax on investment income.
* Hikes payroll taxes by nearly 1 percent for individuals earning more than $200,000 and couples
earning more than $250,000.
* Forty percent tax on “Cadillac” high-end health plans of more than $27,500 per family.
* Fees to be paid by medical device makers, insurance providers and brand-name pharmaceuticals.
* No plans would be required to offer abortion coverage; for plans that do, no public money can be
used for the abortion coverage.
* Denies coverage for illegal immigrants, even those who can pay for their own plan.
2010: Insurers cannot deny coverage to kids with pre-existing conditions. Insurers banned from
capping lifetime payments. Insurers not allowed to cancel coverage because policy-holder
gets sick. Tax on tanning salons.
2011: Payments to insurers for Medicare patients are frozen.
2013: New Medicare tax on investment income begins.
2014: All Americans must have health care coverage or face fines. Insurers barred from denying
coverage or charging more to adults with pre-existing conditions. Childless adults covered by
Medicaid for the first time. State-base exchanges offering health plans open for business.
2018: Tax on high-end health plans begins.
2020: Donut hole closes in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage.

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