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Long Islanders remain split on health care bill's merits

Pharmacist Michael T. Hushin says the new health

Pharmacist Michael T. Hushin says the new health care legislation is being "thrust down our throats." (March 22, 2010) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

The day after the House passed historic legislation to provide health insurance for millions of Americans, Long Islanders - like much of the country - remain split on the bill's merits.

Critics, like House Republicans who opposed reform, cited higher taxes and fear of a socialist government, while those cheering the bill's passage said the health care guarantee will relieve stress in their lives.

Democrats say the bill will extend health care coverage to 161,000 uninsured Long Islanders and 243,000 young adults will be able to remain on their parents' insurance plans until age 26.

"I am so excited, it's great," said Emily Tango, 23, of Stony Brook, a production assistant for ABC television who said her parents helped her maintain her health insurance after she recently graduated college and before she landed her job. "I have a lot of friends in that same situation."

But Michael Bellas, 46, of Islip, said the government should not force health care on people who don't want it.

"Fruits and vegetables are supposed to be good for me, but I don't want someone forcing them down my throat," said Bellas, a home builder. "That's not the philosophy of the founding principles of this country."

Under the plan, no one with pre-existing medical conditions can be denied insurance. Which made folks like Rob Friedman, 54, a Democrat from Bay Shore, happy - even though he has insurance.

"Everyone should be covered if they get sick," he said.

Rainiece Stewart, 39, a homemaker, and her daughter-in-law, Jacquana Poyner, 22, both of Mastic Beach, agreed, saying the plan helps people in need.

"There are people who are on welfare just for the Medicaid," Stewart said. "So I really think the plan will help those people who want to work."

Dr. Leland Deane, reconstructive and cosmetic surgeon at the Long Island Plastic Surgical Group, in Garden City, said the bill lacks details about how the nation can deal with "runaway health care costs."

"I'm uneasy that the health care bill does little to address what everyone will agree is a health care system that's too expensive," Deane said.

And others looked to the future, hoping that Congress will update the legislation as time goes by.

"I'm relieved that the bill passed, and we can move forward to improve it," said Dr. David Hannan, the president of the Medical Society of the state of New York, which along with most national medical associations formally supported the legislation.

"There's some good and some bad," Hannan said. "As the process goes forward we hope to keep the good and correct the deficiencies."


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