On Tuesday evening, about 650 gathered in Columbus, Ohio for a “Defund Obamacare” town hall sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, according to the Columbus Dispatch. As town hall attendees drove into the Crowne Plaza hotel entrance, about 140 Obamacare supporters rallied outside to counter the message of the conservative think tank.
Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint is calling on Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans in the U.S. House to block federal funding for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
The counterdemonstration was organized by members of Americans United for Change and Protect Your Care, who have been following Heritage Foundation’s 9-city tour to speak out in defense of the Affordable Care Act.
Health care reform advocates “are going to meet the repealers and defunders on the battlefield and confront them directly and aggressively,” said Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change. “A strong majority of the American people want the Affordable Care Act to be implemented and fixed if necessary. They do not want it repealed, which is the only plan for health care Republicans have.”
Individuals will be able to sign up for ACA coverage through state exchanges beginning October 1.
National and local advocates for Obamacare held a press conference earlier on Tuesday to make their case for the full implementation of the health care law. Click View the List below for full coverage of their remarks.
“Tonight, Heritage Action is hosting a town hall here in Columbus to talk about issues that are important to them,” said Joanne Pickrell, Ohio director of Protect Your Care on Tuesday afternoon. “One of those issues is defunding Obamacare.
“Today, we’re joined by speakers to talk about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, and about what the Heritage Foundation is trying to accomplish.”
Carmen Owens is co-founder of the Columbus Food League, an alliance of socially responsible restaurants and taverns that are committed to environmental, financial, and social responsibility.
“We’ve been committed, ever since we opened our first restaurant in 2001, to providing health care benefits,” Owens said. “Because of that, we’ve been able to attract and retain a great team of dedicated professionals in an industry that’s not known for providing employee benefits of any kind.
“The Affordable Care Act is the first comprehensive federal law that’s aimed at driving down out-of-control health care costs and realigning our system from one that currently does a better job of providing sick care than health care.
“As our businesses have grown from one to six, we’ve waited for the moment when the increase in our size would make the health insurance marketplace yield a better deal for us. But it’s not happening.
“My partners and I met with an insurance broker yesterday to get educated about the Affordable Care Act and the impact on our business. They said that for some of the businesses of our size, they’re actually recommending that we no longer offer health insurance, but go straight to the marketplace that Obamacare will provide.
“Health insurance premiums have grown 182% while overall inflation has grown 40%, and earnings of U.S. workers have increased only 50%. This is a game that’s rigged. We’re trying to offer our hourly workers health insurance that’s increasingly becoming an issue for us in terms of participation, because they can’t afford the insurance we offer.
“I want to present a few ways that the Affordable Care Act is going to help small business. Insurance companies are being held more accountable for my business’ health care dollar. 80 cents of every dollar spent by either my business or my employee on health care premiums must now go toward actual health care, rather than advertising or bonuses for executives. Since last summer, nearly $1 billion has already been returned to premium payers through rebates due to this rule.
‘Since 2011, insurance companies have been required to publicly justify any rate increase over 10 percent.
“Businesses with fewer than 25 full-time employees may qualify for a tax credit for up to 35 percent of what we spend on health insurance premiums. This should help many small businesses decide to provide health coverage for their full-time employees.
“Employers with fewer than 50 employees are entirely exempt from any new employer responsibilities under the law. Beginning next year, businesses with 100 or fewer employees will be able to use the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges.
“These changes will reduce the administrative burden and cost of enrolling employees, and give these small businesses many of the market advantages enjoyed by larger businesses.
“According to the Department of Health and Human Services, employees and employers will have access to the same kinds of choices enjoyed by members of Congress, like Representatives Stivers and Tiberi, and Speaker Boehner.”
“Republicans in the House have voted repeatedly to repeal Obamacare — over 40 times,” said Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change. “Do you know how many times they’ve voted to replace it? None. Not once have they voted to replace Obamacare with anything other than going back to a system where the insurance companies decide what kind of health care you get.
“It’s clear what will happen if we go back to that. They’ll be able to discriminate against you if you have a pre-existing condition. Women will pay more for their premiums. Being pregnant will again be a pre-existing condition. Seniors will pay more for prescription drugs. Free preventive services that millions of Americans are now benefiting from will be thrown out the window. The premiums that are going down in many states would be history.
“Americans are fed up with the efforts by conservatives and their allies, like Heritage, to take away care for millions.
“About half of the American public supports the Affordable Care Act, and about half oppose it,” Woodhouse said. “But if you ask people if they want to repeal it, about one third actually want to. Two thirds of the public want Obamacare implemented and fixed if necessary. So this notion of repealing or defunding is not just a minority position — it’s almost a fringe position. Even so, we’re not going to let this dangerous proposal be touted without a response.
“The political calculation behind this is obvious. Republicans and conservatives are scared to death that Obamacare is going to work. They’re scared that when people sign up for benefits in October and get benefits in January, their theory of government and the marketplace will be proven wrong.
“That’s why they’re putting out misinformation. They want to kill this in the crib. If they really thought it would be a big, colossal failure, they’d just let it go into practice and then have their theory proven right.”
Joyce Patton of ProgressOhio took Ohio Republicans to task for obstructing the implementation of Obamacare in their state.
“The state GOP and its leaders are failing their constituents, especially those most vulnerable: seniors, children and adults with pre-existing conditions, and the uninsured who are eligible to be helped by the Affordable Care Act,” Patton said. “The idea of stripping away coverage for so many people has left me with a lot of questions.
“Lt. Governor Mary Taylor’s job is overseeing insurance for Ohio. You’d think that this would mean making sure that Ohioans have all options available to them under the law, like a state-run exchange, that has resulted in 53% lower health care costs in New York. But Ohio doesn’t have state-run exchanges.
“Why isn’t Ohio’s insurance marketplace being promoted? Because Mary Taylor would rather play politics than do what is right for the citizens of Ohio.
“We also have to ask why the GOP leaders in the Ohio House and Senate refuse to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. 94 percent of uninsured Ohioans may qualify for state tax credits to purchase coverage in the marketplace, or for Medicaid. That is a little over 1.2 million Ohioans who could have health insurance and stop being afraid that something will happen to them or a loved one.”
Patton also questioned the Heritage Foundation’s motivations for trying to defund Obamacare. “Why do you want to take away preventive care coverage from women? Why do you want to allow children to be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions? Why do you want to take away from seniors the elimination of the prescription drug donut hole? Why are the Ohio GOP and the Heritage Foundation playing politics with the health care of Ohioans?”
Buxi Iacobone, a 22-year-old graduate of Ohio University who is currently uninsured, spoke on behalf of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio.
“Last year my family lost their health insurance when my mother lost her job,” Iacobone said. “Luckily Planned Parenthood was there for me, and provided necessary Pap tests, plus the birth control I’ve needed for medical reasons since the age of 15. Of course Governor Kasich and the GOP-controlled Statehouse are doing their best to take away Planned Parenthood as a women’s health source, but that’s another ugly story.
“Congress members Stivers and Tiberi and their allies in the policy shop of the Tea Party, the Heritage Foundation, are wasting the public’s time with efforts to repeal Obamacare. When we should be relying on our public servants to provide constituents service and good information on a public law, they are instead providing disinformation and lies to Ohioans.
“If the Affordable Care Act were repealed, here are a few things that would affect me and other young people.
“Obamacare ends gender discrimination in insurance pricing. Without the ACA, I would pay more for health insurance just for being a woman.
“Obamacare ends the practice of insurance companies denying or dropping coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions — people who often need coverage the most.
“Obamacare allows parents to keep their adult children on the family’s health care policy up to age 26. This is already in effect. Should we pull the rug out from under these people just as we’ve rolled it out for them?
“Obamacare will create health insurance marketplaces through which competition will provide people and businesses with more options.
“Obamacare sets minimum standards for coverage. For women, this means that Pap tests, breastfeeding supplies, and other wellness visits are covered with no deductible in many plans.
“Obamacare expands Medicaid in the states, with the federal government accepting 90% of the cost over the first three years. In Ohio, this could add at least a quarter million people to the rolls of the insured — that is, if Ohio Republicans come to their senses.
“This is just the start. Repeal makes no sense for any American, regardless of age or gender. Are there parts of the law which could be fixed? First, I would say let’s all put our shoulders to the wheel and implement change in a fair way. If there are problems, Congress should fix them. But let’s not allow partisan nonsense to compel us to throw out the champagne with the cork.
“I hope that in the very near future, our GOP leaders in Ohio will come to their senses and do right by the people. In comparison to other states, Ohioans are receiving bad information and poor service from their public officials.
“My health care restraints and responsibilities in America should not depend on my age, they should not depend on my gender, and they absolutely should not depend on my ZIP code.”
“I became permanently disabled at the age of 45 due do cancer radiation that I had in 1981,” said Teresa Poland, central Ohio volunteer director for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. “If it weren’t for Medicare, I would be dead,” she said.
“Because of the Affordable Care Act, I spend less on my co-pays. I save about $300 per year on prescriptions.
“There are some seniors and disabled who fall into the ‘donut hole.’ They will receive a 50 percent discount on brand name prescriptions until 2020, when the donut hole is closed. This will save thousands of dollars a year for seniors.
“The Affordable Care Act also helps seniors and those on Medicare to stay healthy with free annual wellness clinics. Medicare will also pay for preventive services such as colonoscopies, and mammograms once a year for women.
“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. The Affordable Care Act enhances the benefits of Medicare. It doesn’t cut them.”
The ACA will reduce Medicare fraud, Poland said. “It has been abused, and billions of dollars have been taken from seniors and the disabled.
“Because of the Affordable Care Act, I can afford to feed myself and take my prescription drugs. It didn’t used to be like that. I had to make a choice every month: do I get my prescription drugs, or do I eat? Now I don’t have to make that choice.”
Connie Bailey is a retired nurse and member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “It’s really a sad state of affairs when a group of people has to get together with the media to tell the truth about something that should go beyond politics,” she said.
“Obamacare is the law of the land. Like everyone around the country, I want to know what this means for me, what it means for my family. In Ohio, the answer to that question is unsure, because Obamacare was designed to work with the states.”
A registered Republican, Bailey voted for Ohio Governor Kasich and other Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly in recent elections. “I’ve regretted that mistake ever since,” she said. “Lt. Governor Taylor and the gerrymandered majority in the Statehouse, many of who I helped put in office, have picked up their ball and gone home.
“I’m also part of the LGBT community in central Ohio. While the LGBT fight for rights under the law have made some major progress in some of the coastal states, in Ohio we’re still at a disadvantage. The Affordable Care Act does begin to address some of these issues.
Opponents of Obamacare want “to take away my new-found right under the law not to be discriminated against due to sexual orientation or gender identity,” Bailey said.
“Beginning next year, no insurance company will be able to drop or deny coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition. Pat Tiberi is voting to go back to the old days when annual dollar limits could be placed on your coverage. He’s saying it’s OK to go bankrupt and lose everything — as a family member of mine did — because you had the misfortune to get sick in America.”