Americans react to historic health care decision

By Carla K. Johnson

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, June 28 2012 11:41 a.m. MDT

In January 2011, Mary Grimmett started struggling to breathe and was rushed to Grady Memorial, Atlanta's safety net hospital. She qualified for a program that provides discounted and even free care to uninsured people who qualify. But by that time she had pneumonia (as well as a broken ankle that needed surgery) and was very sick.

She spent two weeks in the hospital and then died of congestive heart failure — a complication of her other illnesses. She was 39.

Today, Grimmett has a job, making $25,000 a year, but he still has no insurance. Under the new health care law, he will be eligible for a government tax credit to help with the cost of buying private health insurance.

That would reduce his estimated annual premiums for health coverage from $5,054 to $1,726. He might have to pay additional copays for doctor visits, but his income would make him eligible for modest subsidies to help with those out-of-pocket expenses.

He is healthy, but the loss of his wife was a tragic lesson in the importance of coverage, he said. When he heard about the Supreme Court ruling from others at a nonprofit where he was volunteering, he said he felt grateful to Obama for helping the poor.

"He's listening to the voice of Jehovah God," he said. He added: "I'm grateful for the hope and opportunity to have health insurance, not just myself but all people who can't afford health insurance. It's a great thing that has taken place today."

Name: Jim Schreiber

Home: New York City

Age: 26

Occupation: Works for small beverage business

Insurance coverage: Private insurance through his employer

Schreiber's young and healthy, but still had reason to worry about the Supreme Court decision. He works for a small business and is responsible for switching the company to a new health insurance plan. He has found a plan at a reasonable price, but that price won't be locked in until August.

Early Thursday, he was concerned that the price would jump with a confusing decision on the health care law, or if the court overturned it. Like many other Americans, he saw contradictory news reports about the ruling and "my heart dropped."

He repeatedly refreshed the Web pages on his computer screen and, finally, when the ruling became clear, "it was a relief."

The company is among the 30 percent of businesses with fewer than 10 employees that offer health coverage. Small businesses often pay more for insurance than large companies.

Schreiber is hoping his company can qualify for a tax credit made available by the health care law for small businesses that provide health insurance. The tax credit is one of the most popular ideas in the health law, according to opinion polls, but only about 4 percent of potentially eligible businesses claimed it in 2010.

Before he turned 26, Schreiber was insured for a year on his mother's health plan because of another provision in the health care law. The law isn't perfect, Schreiber said, but "it's a starting point to move forward."

AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe contributed from Atlanta.

AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/CarlaKJohnson

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