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Obamacare still confounds boro business

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act in its landmark ruling. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
TimesLedger Newspapers

Queens residents and businesses owners largely lauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to preserve the president’s health care program, but when it came down to how the ruling would affect them, many still had unanswered questions .

Lawmakers in the city hailed the 5-4 decision last Thursday, which was made all the more surprising by the inclusion of Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. in the majority.

As City Comptroller John Liu saw it, the president’s health care measure will have a profound effect on the 1 million New Yorkers who are currently uninsured.

“New Yorkers will now benefit from increased access to primary and preventive care, added help in finding and using insurance coverage and an overall focus on spending our health care dollars more wisely,” Liu said.

Enthusiasm echoed elsewhere in the borough for days after the ruling.

Michael Lutton, 29, of Sunnyside said it was about time America got its act together.

“I’m very happy it was upheld. It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s shameful that more people weren’t insured.”

But other residents said they resented having another tax dipping into their income.

“Basically it’s just another tax burden, a burden for insuring other people who may not want it but are forced to take it or can’t afford it themselves,” said Eric Jaklitsch, 44, who works in Bayside.

The White House posted a list of the law’s benefits that would affect a wide variety of Americans. For families, children can no longer be denied health care because of a pre-existing condition. In addition, state insurance exchanges will be set up so anyone interested in purchasing a plan can compare more options at what the White House assured would be lower prices.

Obama’s individual mandate, the requirement that every American meeting certain income levels purchase insurance, was the thorniest portion of the law and the source of much contention from conservatives.

But the mandate, along with nearly all of the law, except for a provision that required states to expand Medicaid programs, seemed to survive the court’s scrutiny, although the 193-page decision will be pored over in the coming days.

Under the law, certain businesses would have to provide health care to their employees, although the government estimates that it would only apply to about 0.2 percent of existing companies in the country, since any organization with less than 50 employees would be exempt.

Kenneth Buettner, the third-generation owner of York Scaffold Equipment Corp. in Long Island City, believes the legislation may be beneficial on a social level but could hurt commerce.

He, like many New York businesses, already provides health care for his employees, but it is rising at a rapid pace. His current insurance policy costs may climb by as much as 17 percent next year.

“I can’t imagine that anything they did is going to help me,” he said. “It’s going to be years before anybody knows if that actually works.”

The debate over the law will likely rage on until it is fully implemented in 2014, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg wondered if anything would actually change in New York state and across the county, since the law was already on its way to being implemented.

“I’m not sure after all of the yelling and screaming and all the politics around this there’s really any great change,” he said on WOR radio.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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