Amid fanfare on the left and condemnation on the right, President Obama signed into law on Tuesday the health care reform bill. The landmark legislation will provide coverage to approximately 30 million uninsured Americans. At a cost of $938 billion, the Congressional Budget Office estimates it will reduce the national deficit by $138 billion over the next decade.
Not all Cranford seniors were pleased with the news. They weren't the only ones.
While the bill has a vast number of proponents, those in opposition have been far more vocal, even going viral to get their point across. The "Tea Party" was formed, and protests held across the nation.
The more controversial elements, such as the "Cornhusker Kickback" - Nebraska's special deal providing Medicaid subsidies in perpetuity - have been eliminated. The penalty for low-income individuals who do not purchase insurance has also been shed. Most of the changes won't take effect until 2014, but what does this legislation actually entail?
- Patients with pre-existing conditions may not be excluded or dropped by insurers.
- Children may remain on parents' insurance plan until they reach age 26.
- Families earning less than $88,000 a year may receive subsidies to cover health insurance.
- Employers with 50 employees or more will be required to provide insurance.
- Changes to Medicare, including free preventive screenings and the eventual closure of the "doughnut hole"
Despite these changes, the majority of the seniors I spoke with in town were vehemently against the bill.
"I feel that the government does not run anything very successfully or inexpensively, so I am definitely not in favor of it," said Cranford senior Sherry Lange outside the Cranford Public Library on Thursday. "They need to get their hands off health care and start from scratch."
Meanwhile, in front of the Cranford Post Office, a small group of political activist Lyndon Larouche supporters set up a kiosk with informational material and posters of President Obama with a Hitler mustache. The passage of health care reform legislation has them outraged.
"Obama is pushing this murderous health plan," said Art Murphy of the LaRouche Political Action Group. "It's a Nazi policy, a copy of Hitler's T-4 Euthanasia Board. It's got to be thrown out, and Obama should be thrown out with it."
While such rhetoric may seem extreme, Murphy insists that under this plan, death panels will decide who lives and who dies, although the Obama administration has emphatically denied that this is the case.
"It's euthanasia. Cutting people off (from coverage) by saying that they're too expensive to be kept alive."
Across town, opinions are equally intense.
"It's destroying the country," said a Cranford senior asking only to be identified as Theresa. "I'm definitely against it. It will affect everybody. Rates are going to go up. They're going to take benefits away from seniors."
She was also concerned about where this law might lead.
"I don't want the government in my business. It's not a matter of health care; it's the first step toward making this a socialist country. They should repeal this law. I can't even sleep over this. It's very upsetting. But by doing this, I think they've woken up a sleeping giant" in terms of the protests that have been happening.
Another senior at a local diner who did not wish to be named said, "It was not what the American people wanted. They forced it down our throats. They passed it with bribery and special deals. It's going to fund abortions... there's so much in it that's wrong."
On the supportive side of the legislation, an anonymous Cranford senior said, "I am all for the legislation, as imperfect as it is. We can work on perfecting the legislation. We're still improving Medicare (which) was instituted in 1965."
This Cranford resident passed by the post office today and was dismayed to see LaRouche's group displaying a poster of the President with a Hitler mustache. "Those (people) weren't old enough to know what this world was like when Hitler was in power."
"It is a sorry state of affairs that poor people can't receive medical attention when needed," she added. "People who have lost their jobs, or have pre-existing conditions and are denied health coverage. Yes, it will cost a lot of money, but it is about time that we thought of others and not about ourselves."