News And Politics

South LA reaction to ACA ruling mixed

June 28, 2012, 1:38 p.m.

Susan Hernandez, 23, said she feels it is unfair for the government to require individuals to purchase health insurance under the penalty of taxation under the Affordable Care Act. (Rachel Garcia/OnCentral)

Folks living in South L.A. have split opinions on Thursday morning’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Part of the ruling determined that the legislation’s individual mandate - which requires all Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty - was constitutional because it is a tax, according to the high court's decision.

Under the law, about 80 percent of the 2.2 million people who are currently uninsured in L.A. County will gain access to health insurance, said L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at a press conference Thursday morning.

Garvin Peterson, a 71-year-old L.A. resident who is on Medicare, said he thinks the individual mandate ruling is fair, adding that he has always paid for health insurance.

“I think people need insurance if they care about themselves - that’s the only way I can see it,” Peterson said.

But not all L.A. residents agree with the court’s decision, particularly when it came to the individual mandate.

Peter Ortega, who is uninsured, said he does not think he could afford to pay for the required insurance.

“That’s terrible. They’re obligating us to get health insurance, otherwise they’re going to tax us?” Ortega said. “That doesn’t sound right to me.”

He said he never felt he needed to get insurance because he has never been sick. “If I do get sick, I’ll go and pay out of my pocket,” Ortega said. “But I don’t want to pay just because they ask me to pay.”

The court also ruled it constitutional for the federal government to increase funding to the states to expand their Medicare programs. States, however, do not have to accept the additional funding.

Had the ACA had been struck down as unconstitutional, California could have lost out on $15 billion a year in expansion money for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, and subsidization funds for folks who buy insurance policies through a state-run exchange. With the ruling, more than half of newly insured people in L.A. County will be eligible for coverage through Medi-Cal in 2014 if the state participates in the expansion, Mitchell Katz, director of health services for L.A. Country said in a statement to KPCC.

Tammy Johnson, a L.A. resident who receives health insurance from the county, said she views the ruling as a positive for people who will now be able to receive Medi-Cal support. This will help anybody dealing with high medical expenses in the current poor economy, she said.

“We need more Medi-Cal, not just for the adults but for the kids,” Johnson said.

Some experts say the ruling, which upholds President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul, is a campaign-season victory for the president. While she is not in support of the court’s decision, Susan Hernandez, an L.A. resident, said the ruling will not affect the way she votes in the presidential election this November.

“There’s nobody else that has done as many changes as Obama,” Hernandez said. “We have the choice of whether we want to choose him or somebody worse.”

South L.A. residents are not the only ones with mixed feelings about the ACA. Nationally, debates and appeals of the ruling are expected in the next few months before the act can be implemented.

With contributions by Kylie Reynolds.

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