Area candidates for state offices were queried this past week about overturning the federal Affordable Care Act.
The state Senate late last month approved a constitutional amendment to prohibit the federal government from requiring state residents to buy health insurance.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is deciding whether the federal act is unconstitutional.
The candidates are Republicans E. Eugene Yaw and David Huffman and Democrat Luana Cleveland, 23rd state Senate; Republican Garth Everett, 84th state House; and Democrat Rick Mirabito and Republicans Harry Rogers and Christopher Bain, 83rd state House. Bain is staging a write-in candidate for the seat.
23rd state Senate
Yaw, who voted in favor of the state amendment, is against federally mandated insurance.
"We got to the point where you can force people to buy health insurance," he said. "It's part of a states rights issue. A lot of people think it is up to the states.
"I think the worst part of it is the mandatory statute forcing people to buy insurance. I just think it goes too far in forcing people to have government telling them what to do."
Yaw said he's unsure of the fate of the bill at the federal level.
"We did our part," he said.
Cleveland said she is against over-turning the Affordable Care Act.
She said people without insurance are already being covered by those who can afford it.
And that drives up the costs for everyone.
"Medical bills are the number-one cause of bankruptcy in America," she said. "If we don't get a handle on this health care issue, it will bankrupt all of us."
She disagreed that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.
After all, if you don't get covered, you simply pay a fine.
"It's a specious argument to say we are going to fight this if you are forced to buy it," she said.
Huffman said there's better ways of reforming health care than the Affordable Care Act.
"It definitely is a mandate. It's so comprehensive and all-inclusive, that many of us don't know all that's in it, he said. "You can't have mandates without limiting peoples' freedom of choice."
There are good provisions of the bill, Huffman said.
"There are some good intentions, but it falls short of true health care reform," he said. "What we need to do is scrap all of this and start over."
Huffman said one need only look to Canada to see that "socialized medicine" will mean higher taxes for everyone.
"Do you want the government making all these decisions?" he asked. "There's too many unanswered questions when the government gets involved."
Huffman called for cooperation among insurance companies, lawyers and doctors to find a solution.
"Tort reform needs to be part of this too," he said. "I would blame our legal system and the abuses of the legal system with the problems we have with health care. It's time we stop putting the burden on the government."
84th state House
Everett, an incumbent running unopposed, was hard put to say how he stands on the issue one way or the other.
"I think the main thing the states are saying in mandating this is it's unconstitutional. When you look at the law, it has some good stuff in it."
Among the bill's merits, he said, are preventing people with medical preconditions from being denied coverage and allowing children to stay on their parents' health care plans up to age 26.
"I think everyone has a goal of trying to make health care affordable for all America, but I think there is disagreement on both sides. It is one of the most complicated issues that I have tried to understand. Nor do I know anyone who knows how the whole thing works."
Everett questions the Affordable Care Act being mandated.
"It is going to force the state to do some things. I don't know if the feds have a legal means to force these things on states," he said. "What I don't like is it's a huge financial over-step on states and individuals. I understand the goal, but I don't agree with the method."
He acknowledged that there are problems with health care.
For one, too many people without insurance show up at emergency rooms for medical needs, he noted.
Those visits often come after patients are quite sick and the care has become expensive.
The question is, is the the government mandate the right fix? he asked.
83rd state House
"This is not a real simple issue," Mirabito said. "It's easy for some to say let's overturn this health care plan. Regardless of whether one is for it or against it, we have to realize that health care is a major drain on our economy. In rural communities not having a solution to the health care problem should be a major concern for us."
Local hospitals, the two-term incumbent said, can only hope that the Affordable Care Act is not overturned. After all, they will will depend on funding through the federal law.
"Are there pieces of the legislation that are not constitutional?" he asked. "The Supreme Court is going to tell us that. I think we actually do a disservice to the public when we take a very complicated issue and we try and take an issue and simplify it with slogans."
That said, Mirabito made it known he's not so sure that employers should be required to provide health coverage, which he feel can burden small employers.
"That concerns me," he added.
He noted that rural communities are especially vulnerable to health care costs. For one, more people in rural areas are without coverage than their urban counterparts.
In addition, slashes in state funding are already hurting the poor.
He pointed to the state Department of Public Welfare proposal to eliminate Medical Assistance payments for normal newborn births. That, he said, is troubling when it's considered that 50 percent of all births are paid by Medical Assistance.
"The recession has put particular strains on rural areas," he said. "It's simplistic to say, just eliminate it (Affordable Care Act)."
Bain said he's in favor of rejecting the Affordable Care Act.
"I think the state should fight it and it's unconstitutional. If we give them (government) that much leeway, they will take away all our rights. The Constitution is the guide to all our rules, " he said. It's a no brainer. Does government need to provide health care to everyone? That is a tough one. I think government was formed to protect our Constitution, our borders, and people on the streets. That's what government was formed for. Not to over-regulate."
Bain added that services are needed for people, including seniors who can't take care of ourselves.
That's why there is Medicare and Medicaid.
Medicaid, he noted, is run by the states.
"We also have CHIP, which is a great health care service for kids."
Bain agreed that health care in the U.S. is far from perfect.
"Yes. There is always room for improvement," he said.
Rogers said he feels the state should reject the federal mandate.
"I am concerned about the constitutionality of it all," he said. "I also fear any unfunded mandates that the federal government passes down to the state. At the same time something has to be done to rein in high costs of health care, especially when some health care conditions aren't covered. We should never deny treatment. We are paying for it one way or the other. (But) I'm not totally convinced that Obama Care is the right way to go. I don't believe the federal government should do it."
Rogers said he believes the U.S. Supreme Court will rule against the Affordable Care Act.
He called for the private sector rather than government working out some solution to the nation's health care problems..
Rogers said he likes at least the one provision of federal health care that allows children to remain on their parents' health insurance plan up to age 26.