A few dozen area residents last month packed into the party room at the Oxford LaRosa’s to hear what could happen if the Affordable Care Act is repealed and replaced with a plan yet to be laid out — but being debated — by congressional Republicans.
That rally for health care was one of more than 150 across the country and organized by Chantel Raghu, a newcomer to the public political advocacy scene. And she’s not only passionate about the future of health care in this country, but the direction of the country as a former volunteer for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. She is a part of the political action group Our Revolution.
While last Saturday’s rally laid out what could happen if the health care law, commonly referenced as Obamacare, is repealed — most notably a loss of health care coverage for thousands of Ohioans and millions of Americans — the bigger point Raghu said was to have these 100 or so people at LaRosa’s act by their local congressman, becoming members of political action groups or to run for office.
“If you want change, then be a voice in making that change rather than trying to convince someone else to do the right thing,” said the 31-year-old who intends to run for Oxford City Council. “I think the biggest thing is people need to keep calling their congressmen and letting them know this is an important issue, and visiting them when they have their office hours.”
Even though “repeal and replace” continues to be the political battle cry among conservatives, especially President Donald Trump who made the three-word phrase a key part of his 2016 presidential campaign, some congressional Republicans are softening their position.
But signs show reforms with Obamacare may not happen as quickly as some conservative lawmakers have wanted or hope — even Trump confessed to reporters this week that reforming Obamacare is “hard.”
Congressman Leonard Lance, R-N.J., is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee which is considering legislation in dismantling the health care law, commonly known as Obamacare. He wrote on his Facebook page, “We want to repair the ACA. I’ve never said repeal without replacing it. It has to be repaired, and we are trying to focus on repairing it, and that is why we are conducting this hearing,” Lance wrote prior to a committee session.
A concern for many is the impact Medicaid if the health care law is reformed. Ohio Gov. John Kasich spoke late last month with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Tom Price about retaining expanded eligibility of Medicaid, which is a key component of the current health care law. Vice President Mike Pence said he’s talked with Kasich about health care, and said at a rally in Springdale in Hamilton County that “(Kasich’s) ideas are part of an on-going conversation.”
Kasich was criticized for Medicaid expansion in 2013, but that decision allowed 700,000 previously uninsured low-income Ohioans to receive health coverage.
Former House Speaker John Boehner doesn’t believe Obamacare will be fully repealed and replaced.
Speaking at a health care conference in Orlando, Florida on Feb. 23, Boehner said that “Republicans never, ever agree on health care,” according to Politico. A Boehner spokesman later told the Associated Press that he believes Republicans “will right the many wrongs of Obamacare, whether your preference is to call it a repair, a replacement, or something else.”
“His point was that the process of doing it from start to finish will not be an instantaneous one, and I think that’s already been borne out by recent developments,” said Boehner spokesman David Schnittger, according to the Associated Press.
Boehner advocated repeal and replace in 2013 and was speaker during the 2013 government shutdown in an attempt to take money away from the law.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said this week“we have to do something” because Obamacare as it stands “isn’t working.” And whether it’s called a repair, replacement or reform, “We got to have the time to do this right,” he said.
“There are parts of the Affordable Care Act, including protecting people who have pre-existing conditions ought to continue. No question about it,” Portman said. “But there are other parts of it, including the way exchanges are not working, including some of the requirements and mandates on small businesses and paperwork haven’t worked.”
Raghu is hopeful the pressure on keeping key aspects of the Affordable Care Act makes federal lawmakers realize “they should not repeal it in terms of taking away important parts of it.”
“The broader question is can everyone afford their health care? The ‘improvements’ being proposed are dangerous in terms of gutting and maiming ACA,” she said. “Changing the subsidies into tax credits will only help the rich and will hurt the poor since the tax credit being proposed will be a flat rate without any regard to income level.”
Cedarville University political science professor Mark C. Smith said Obamacare was “a stellar issue” for Washington, D.C. Republicans, and not having an alternative to the 2010 health care law did damage them. Now members of Congress know when, or if, they put an alternative plan forward, “they are accountable,” he said.
But it’s not just about the efforts to repeal and replace or repair, Smith said.
“Members of Congress are in a bit of a bind. They probably ran, for years, on a conservative, anti-Obama agenda,” he said. “Now, they find themselves with a president who is unpredictable, does not fit neatly into a template, and has some ideas that are very different from the traditional, Republican line of thinking.”