Hospital CEO favors law that requires health insurance

Published 9:58 am Friday, June 29, 2012

FRANKLIN—Phil Wright favors Thursday’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to require everyone to have or buy health insurance.

The chief executive officer for Southampton Memorial Hospital, Wright believes it will help reduce millions of dollars in unpaid care to health care facilities and create a healthier community. Franklin was recently ranked the fifth sickest locality in Virginia.

“We have to find ways to work together and become more efficient in how we provide care,” Wright said about the high court’s historic 5-4 vote to uphold President Barack Obama’s health care legislation.

Wright noted that hospitals will have to be smarter about care with the potential for an increased number of patients.

Billy Smith, owner of Smith Jewelers in Franklin, offers health insurance to his three full-time employees, but opposes the legislation because he doesn’t think the government should require it.

As of 2014 under the law, small business with more than 50 employees would be required to provide coverage or face fines.

“I think it will cripple small businesses that can’t afford it,” Smith said. “You’re going to see small businesses on the edge that will now go over the edge.”

In a written statement, U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Virginia, said the legislation will force small businesses to make tough choices.

“The president’s health care law increases costs for employers, leaving some small businesses with the choice between laying off employees or paying the penalty associated with failure to purchase health insurance,” Forbes said. “This misguided judgment signals that there are no longer any real limitations on what the government can mandate on the citizens of this nation.”

In 2010, Forbes voted against the legislation and has called for its repeal, but offered compromises in his statement.

“We need to repeal provisions that hurt economic and individual choices and preserve areas of common ground, such as making it easier for individuals, including those with pre-existing conditions and young adults under the age of 26, to obtain and keep health insurance by making it portable across state lines and allowing those who like their current coverage to keep it.”

The Supreme Court found that the provision in the legislation that requires health care coverage should be considered a tax and is therefore legal.

Courtland Attorney Richard Railey, former chairman of the Southampton County Democratic Party, agrees.

“It’s more like a tax because if you don’t participate you pay a penalty and the (Internal Revenue Service) administers it,” Railey said.

He was slow, however, to call the decision a clear victory for the Obama November re-election campaign.

“I’m sure it’s a victory right now because nobody wants their piece of legislation defeated,” Railey said. “It opens it up to electrify (presumptive GOP candidate) Mitt Romney’s base.”