FilAms buck, back Obamacare


WASHINGTON D.C. –  An informal poll by a Philippine TV station in the United States said majority of Filams are against the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) which has been ruled constitutional by the US Supreme Court. But some FilAm newspapers that interviewed Filipino American leaders and doctors said the majority were in favor of the controversial health plan.

The Online Filam Star claims in its recent issue that majority of Filipino American leaders it interviewed support Obamacare. In contrast, the Filipino Channel's daily newscast Balitang America said the majority of viewers who participated in the informal poll were upset by the Supreme Court's decision and were against the health plan.

The TFC channel poll said 53 percent of  voters did not agree with the SC decision, while forty seven percent said it is about time that the richest economy in the world take care of its own people. The SC decision makes the United States approach the high standards in health care of other developed countries.

TFC said that "while several polls show majority of Americans want ObamaCare "repealed" (mostly because of conservative principles), with some liberals saying the law does not go far enough to ensure adequate health care coverage for all Americans, a Reuters/Ipsos poll  shows growing support for President Obama's health care law.

FilAms interviewed by the Filipino American media said Obamacare is "pro-people," "humane," and "beneficial to those who need  health insurance the most."

In the greater Washington D.C. area, many FilAms have expressed support for Obamacare while those who already have insurance are opposed to it.

One local leader who requested anonymity said "it is about time that the United States, the richest country on earth, provide health care to all its citizens, just as Canada and other developed nations are doing it."

The San Francisco-based FilAm Star said Washington DC Community leader Arnedo Valera, a co-executive director of the Migrant Heritage Commission, called ACA the most important piece of health care legislation since the creation of Medicare in 1965.

"This is a major and a radical change of the U.S. health care system since the Medicare of 1965, as it assures – or, to say the least, attempts to assure – us of health care coverage as Americans," said Valera, a Washington DC-based lawyer and immigrant advocate.

FilAm Star continued:

Though far from perfect, Valera thinks Obamacare is certainly better than the status quo – and is beneficial to FilAms.

"For the four million Filipino Americans and immigrants of this great nation, it means expanded coverage for the uninsured and underinsured," Valera said, adding that affordable health care is a "basic human right."

Allen Gaborro thinks that the fundamental goal of Obamacare is to provide healthcare to millions of Americans who cannot afford it and believes that the law "will do exactly that" regardless of what the critics may say.

"Whatever its opponents think about it, the Affordable Care Act is a necessary governmental expression of humanity and compassion that has long been absent from the American socio-political discourse," Gaborro said .

Frederic Simonds has a short but meaty reaction to the healtcare law, "It's not the end-all… but it's a heck of a lot closer to the be-all."

"Folks realize Obama cares and unfortunately [Republican presidential nominee Mitt] Romney left his care package in Massachusetts," Simonds added.

Dr. Rick Carranza of Scottsdale, Arizona is convinced that the "most humane" and probably most important feature of the ACA is its prohibition on insurers from denying people with pre-existing medical conditions.

"As a doctor, I applaud the upholding by the Supreme Court of the president's Affordable Health Care Act. One key provision there that I find most humane – and which is the right thing to do – is that which prohibits insurers from denying insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions," said Carranza, an immigrant from Cavite and Batangas. "That's no different from doctors shooing away patients who need our help. Still, there's a lot in the Act that need to be explained to the people. I also wonder if there's a chance for the law to be tweaked before its full enforcement in 2014."

Another physician, Dr. Napoleon Bernardo of the Bay Area, said that apart from ensuring coverage for people with pre-existing medical issues, Obamacare would lead to improved delivery of medical services to Americans.

"I think this law is okay because it is pro-people, for it will cover all patients who no longer [have to] resort going to the emergency room for simple complaints like cough and cold," Bernardo said He lamented the fact that emergency room doctors sometimes become primary care doctors in the present setup because some uninsured patients seek medical attention in hospitals' emergency units, thus leading to additional expenses for the government that funds the hospitals.

"Currently, the ERs are being used as a 'primary care clinic' by the uninsured. Some visit the ER just to get prescriptions refilled, or wanting care for simple symptoms," said Bernardo who used to work for a county hospital in New York.

Winston Serquiña of the U.S. Postal Service in Belleville, New Jersey, on the other hand, is concerned that the ACA is, "in reality, the biggest tax hike" due to bigger government medical expenses in having those without insurance covered under the law.

Serquiña is also worried that for persons who have adequate insurance coverage, the choice of medical service providers could be restricted by the law.

"As it is, we already have a good medical insurance coverage. I can go to the doctor I want, whenever, I want but now I would have no more choice but go to someone who will tell me the doctor I would report to for medical needs," Serquina rued.

With roughly 25 percent of the population uninsured, the Affordable Care Act is expected to vastly expand insurance coverage to Americans, especially minorities who could not afford to pay for their own coverage because of high costs.

Lori DeRenzo, human resources manager of Lucky Chances Casino, a 100 percent Filipino-owned company in the Bay Area town of Colma, said the Affordable Care Act sends the message that the government cares for the ordinary people, particularly the those who need of heathcare insurance the most.

Of course, the ACA entails additional costs for business, especially small businesses that find it hard to raise the funds to provide insurance coverage for their staff.

"As an HR professional… I don't like the fact that employers are backed into a corner as far as what they choose to provide, because healthcare is a benefit, DeRenzo said. "If an employer has to juggle other expenses to support a healthcare plan in order to stay in business, then that is not a very good business maneuver."

Under the law, an employer with 25 or less employees is qualified for federal tax credits to help the employer buy insurance coverage for the workers. Companies with 50 or more workers and don't provide them with insurance – or if the workers can't afford the insurance – would be liable for a $2,000-fine per worker beginning 2014. But depending on the size of the business and the state, the employer could go for affordable small-group insurance coverage from a highly regulated insurance exchange.

Jun Nucum, who used to work in a Filipino-owned day care center for special kids, said employees of his former company had clamored for health benefits but the employer did not offer much in the absence of a law like the ACA.


"But now, it's a different ballgame altogether," said Nucum, a FilAm Star editorial contributor. "Employees will be happy, but employers will have to manage their bottom line and see how this will be impacted by the mandatory health insurance coverage."

On mandatory individual coverage, Nucum said individuals should have the freedom to decide whether they want coverage or not. "It's just like any other basic choice in life: buying a car or not, staying single or getting married, pursuing a university degree or just acquiring vocational training, etcetera," he pointed out.

Nucum continued: "On the other hand, taxpayers – especially those with insurance coverage – should not be subsidizing the healthcare costs of those who elected not to buy insurance, and, therefore, the penalty or tax, according to the Supreme Court, makes sense …… it will help unburden the state and the taxpayers."

IT professional Emmanuel Nervez said Obamacare is the way to go toward eventual universal insurance coverage in America.

"Sure, the ACA increases the healthcare insurance cost for working Americans. However, it all goes back to their health maintenance. If we're paying more for our medical insurance, the more reason we should see more of our medical providers. Let us get back our money's worth," Nervez said.

As for employers, Nervez said they should not complain about the higher costs of providing health insurance because a healthy workforce is more productive, which translates to long-term benefits for both employers and their workers.

In ruling the law as constitutional, the Supreme Court, by a vote of 5-4, said that while the federal government does not have the power to mandate Americans to purchase health insurance, the Constitution allows it to impose taxes. This refers to the provision that those who do not buy insurance will have to pay a penalty.

What surprised many was that the decider in the 5-4 vote was no less than  Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative appointed to the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush.

Roberts wrote: "Under that theory, the mandate is not a legal command to buy insurance. Rather it makes going without insurance just another thing the Government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning income. And if the mandate is in effect just a tax hike on certain taxpayers who do not have health insurance, it may be within Congress's constitutional power to tax."

Therefore by January 1, 2014, the individual mandate provision of the law is scheduled to kick in, requiring almost every American to obtain health insurance. A sliding scale of penalties kicks in over the following two years. By 2016, this will raise rising to 2.5% of income or $695 per person for those who fail to buy insurance.

But Republicans, led by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, are vowing to repeal the law or prevent Congress from funding it.

For the very poor Americans living below poverty line, expanded Medicaid coverage will provide care. Premiums will be subsidized for people living in households, with a total income of up to four times the poverty line up to a maximum of 9.5% of income.

The establishment of health insurance exchanges spreads the risk in order to cover additional costs insurance companies incur through the reforms, while making policies more affordable.

This decision has given the green light for the full implementation of the law, according to the stipulated time frame, providing health care coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans.

Now, ObamaCare will make sure insurance companies will stop their immoral practices of canceling policies when the holders became sick, and imposing lifetime financial limits on payouts for essential care; it will provide health care for Americans with pre-existing conditions; young people up to age 26 may still be included under their parents' health insurance policies; insurance companies are also now required to offer certain preventative health services without additional cost, such as mammograms.

Moreover, Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D) for seniors becomes more affordable, providing additional savings on covered brand-name and generic drugs while in the coverage gap until the gap is closed in 2020.

In response to the SC decision, President Obama said: "…they've reaffirmed a fundamental principle: that here in America, in the wealthiest nation on earth, no illness or accident should lead to any family's financial ruin."

"I know there will be a lot of discussion today about the politics of all this, about who won and who lost. That's how these things tend to be viewed here in Washington. But that discussion completely misses the point. Whatever the politics, today's decision was a victory for people all over this country, whose lives will be more secure because of this law and the Supreme Court's decision to uphold it."

But the Republicans are not giving up their fight to repeal ObamaCare, which they say is proof of the federal government's encroachment on the liberties of Americans that are supposed to be guaranteed by the Constitution. It is also the biggest tax yet, in American History, to be imposed on Americans. Republicans in Congress vow to do everything they can to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Presumptive Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney said in a speech: "What the court did not do on its last day in session, I will do on my first day if elected president of the United States. And that is I will act to repeal ObamaCare."

"Let's make clear that we understand what the court did and did not do.

What the court did today was say that ObamaCare does not violate the Constitution. What they did not do was say that ObamaCare is good law or that it's good policy. ObamaCare was bad policy yesterday. It's bad policy today. ObamaCare was bad law yesterday. It's bad law today," Romney added.

The Presidential Election this November, therefore, will be critical. As Republicans say, if you support ObamaCare, then vote for President Obama. If you think this law is not good for America, then make him a one-term president.


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