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Congressman Mike Johnson

Representing the 4th District of Louisiana

Local reaction to the American health care plan to replace Obamacare

March 13, 2017
In The News

Monday, House Republicans unveiled their long awaited bill to replace Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, called the American Health Care Act.

The sweeping legislation would repeal Obamacare's taxes along with the so-called individual and employer mandates that impose fines for not buying or offering insurance.

 "I lost my job and my wife was working but then she lost her job. She had been there over 35 years and they had a layoff. We both lost the health insurance," said Eddy Hamilton. Because of the Affordable Care Act, he's been able to get the medical attention that he needs because before the ACA - there was nothing for he and his wife to hold onto.

"I take blood pressure medicine, I take medicine for reflux, I take potassium. These are preventive medicines that prevent me from going to the hospital with more expensive inpatient care. I just don't understand what they want to repeal it for and what's the big hurry to repeal it," Hamilton said.

Willie White, CEO for David Raines Health Center, says his clinics serve mostly poor and low income families that had little to no health insurance before Obamacare. But with the Medicaid Expansion in Obamacare more than 400,000 people in Louisiana who didn't qualify at first, finally had coverage.

But now that the ball is rolling to repeal Obamacare and defund medicaid expansion by the year 2020, he's not sure what the future will hold. "With our funding streams in jeopardy, we're going to be looking at a standstill. If not, we're going to look at reductions."

On the other side of the issue are individuals and families who say Obamacare is too costly for them. Many complain of monthly premiums skyrocketing into the thousands of dollars. They want a break, too. 

KTBS reached out to Louisiana Sen. John Neely Kennedy and Congressman Mike Johnson for their input on the proposed changes but our calls were not returned. An interview was scheduled with Sen. Bill Cassidy but he had to cancel because of a scheduling conflict. Cassidy was one of two Republicans in January to propose their own plan revamping Obamacare.
    
Elsewhere inside of the Republican camp, there's division on the new health care bill with some Republicans speaking out against the proposal.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says, "This is what good conservative healthcare reform looks like."

But Congressman Mo Brooks, a Republican from Alabama said, "It's much akin to Christmas where that oratory is a pretty wrapping and you open the gift and it's a lump of coal. And that's what this bill is. It is a lump of coal."

Now the proposal leaves lots of questions.

"Does that mean everybody who qualified under the expansion will be taken off because they no longer qualify? I mean that's just... Lots of questions. Lots of questions and I'm not sure if there are any good answers yet," said White.

The individual mandate, for example, which a White House committee Thursday morning voted to do away with, requires that everyone has insurance or pays a penalty. For younger healthier patients, who don't use a lot of medical services, their premium dollars are shared by an aging patient population who require more medical care. But without the younger patient having to sign up for health insurance, their premium dollars are off the table leaving hospitals and the state to cover the cost of patients who require more medical attention.

White says the state can't afford this route. "We can shift dollars around but at the end of the day the people that still need care and can least afford are still going to be there. They're not going away. People who now have discovered they have diseases and are getting discovered at an earlier stage are now going to wait and then their health outcomes are going to be more negative."

Republican officials have said on TV news circuits that say they are not pulling the rug out from under people rather they want to restore power to the states and control costs in medicaid.

It's a situation that is still being hashed out on Capitol Hill and likely will take weeks to work out .

Rep. Johnson told the Associated Press that he's "actively discussing and researching possible amendments and alternatives with his colleagues." But he stopped short of endorsing the plan as is.

Most lawmakers say they're still studying the plan.

KTBS will pass along more from the local delegation as this issue progress.