Even among the uninsured, Akron-area residents had mixed feelings about whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold health-care reform would help or hurt them.
Sharon Wilson of Akron said she hopes the law will give her access to affordable health insurance — something she hadn’t had for about a year.
She works full time in the information technology field while serving as guardian for her two young nieces.
But with a salary of less than $20,000 annually, she said, she can’t afford to pay hundreds of dollars a month for minimal coverage with lots of out-of-pocket charges.
She was at Akron Community Health Resources Inc. in Akron on Thursday to get several dental fillings after hearing about the Supreme Court’s ruling. The medical and dental practice, which charges patients on a sliding scale, treats many who can’t afford their bills.
By potentially expanding Medicaid coverage or providing help to those who can’t afford insurance, health-care reform “will make it more affordable,” Wilson said.
“Nobody really needs a handout. But sometimes, you do need help.”
Cindy Daniels, 51, of Akron, wasn’t sure whether she would qualify for any help under the Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare” by its critics.
Regardless, she said, she doesn’t want the federal government forcing her to buy health coverage.
The Supreme Court’s ruling upheld the controversial requirement that virtually all Americans obtain health insurance.
“I’m furious,” Daniels said. “I don’t like people telling me what I should do and when I should do it.”
Daniels, a full-time medical assistant at Akron Community Health Resources, said she has declined the insurance coverage offered through the practice because she can’t afford it.
“The paycheck is to help pay for food and bills,” she said. “That’s just something coming out of my check that I can’t afford.”
Doubts plan will work
Kevin Nething, 32, of Ravenna, said he doesn’t think the law goes far enough to help fix the nation’s medical system.
Nething has been uninsured for about a year because his job as a warehouse worker has a one-year waiting period until he qualifies for coverage. In the meantime, he pays for care on a sliding scale at Akron Community Health Resources.
“They can set it up better, I think,” he said. “There are many different countries that have their own government-run health system. I don’t think Obamacare is going to work very well.”
Jeremy Pemberton, another patient at Akron Community Health, said the reform measure should be helpful.
Pemberton, 28, of Springfield Township, has been working seasonal positions and server jobs while studying to become a park ranger. None of the positions has offered health insurance.
The Affordable Care Act allows adults to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26.
“For the people in my situation, coming off school, working seasonal jobs here and there, that would have worked out pretty good,” he said of health-care reform.
For patients who have battled serious illnesses, a portion of the law that prohibits insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions is a relief.
The provision takes effect for adults in 2014, when most Americans also will be required to get health coverage. The protection already is in effect for children.
For Tyler Froats, the Supreme Court’s ruling eases some of his concerns about his future.
The 19-year-old college student from Sharon Township was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia when he was 6.
After undergoing two years of chemotherapy that put his cancer in remission, Froats experienced relapses when he was 12 and again five years later.
He underwent a bone marrow transplant to cure his cancer, with his sister, Chelsea, serving as the donor for the procedure at Akron Children’s Hospital.
His mother, Karen, said the transplant procedure alone cost roughly $300,000 — “something that you cannot do without having insurance.”
For now, his medical expenses have been covered by insurance through his parents, as well as a state-run program through the Bureau for Children with Medical Handicaps.
But the family has worried whether he’d be able to get coverage after he finishes his degree in recording arts and technology at Cuyahoga Community College.
“I was a little bit concerned about what was going to be going on with all my history and pre-existing conditions I had, especially going on with trying to be more independent,” he said.
Amy Panchumarti, 56, of Medina, said she gave a “huge sigh of relief” when she heard the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act.
The second-grade teacher in Norton City Schools has battled skin, endometrial and kidney cancer since 2008.
Her health insurance through her job paid the hundreds of thousands of dollars it cost for numerous operations, chemotherapy and other treatments.
“When I lost my hair, I called it ‘my $210,000 hair- cut,’ ” she said, referring to the cost of chemotherapy.
“I thank God every day I was not worrying about money. But I saw people every day who were worried about money.”
Without health reform, she said, she fears no insurer would want to cover her because of her history.
“If, for some reason, I lost my health care, I wouldn’t have been capable of getting health care,” she said.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.