Obamacare key topic at Larsen’s town hall meeting

MARYSVILLE – At a town hall forum hosted by 2nd District Congressman Rick Larsen Saturday to discuss repealing the Affordable Care Act, Paula Townsell of Everett cut to the chase.

“If Congress passed to repeal and the president signed it into law immediately, how soon would the Affordable Care Act disappear?

“Monday,” Larsen said, “although that’s not going to happen.”

“That’s really scary,” Townsell replied.

She signed up her family under the act, cautioning others that the coverage is not great and the premiums not as affordable as families are led to believe.

“It’s not affordable, and it’s going up by double digits,” Townsell said. “It’s way more than my family income.”

She was among about 100 people who attended the forum at Totem Middle School to share with Larsen their health care stories, opinions about Obamacare and other matters important to them.

The Arlington Democrat shared his position on Obamacare, and addressed the health care impacts that a Republican-led repeal would have on 537,000 Washingtonians who gained coverage under it. Ifno plan takes its place, 2.9 million people with a pre-existing condition, and millions of others’ benefits and health costs are at risk.

After Obamacare, he said, coverage went from 14 percent uninsured to 5.8 percent.

Larsen, who voted in support of Obamacare in 2009, said it’s one thing to repeal the act; it’s another to have nothing to take its place.

“Congressional Republicans need to own this,” Larsen said. “They need to come up with a replacement plan…”

Republicans have countered that they will not repeal the act in its entirety until there is a replacement. They don’t want anyone falling between the cracks, and they don’t want people who were able toget insurance to be left out in the cold.

Larsen said middle class families, seniors and disabled people will be hardest hit by repeal of the act, as well as families with elderly relatives in rest homes who depend on Medicaid to cover costs.

Health care providers predict chaos if the repeal goes forward, while insurers, including the state’s largest, Premera Blue Cross, say it will destabilize the health insurance marketplace, Larsen added.

Attendees had mixed reviews on Obamacare.

Pat Thomson, a registered nurse in Marysville who retired from the obstetrics floor at Swedish Hospital – Edmonds campus, said the act made a difference in maternity care and treatment.

“If someone came into the hospital and didn’t have pre-natal care, things got really busy,” Thomsen said. “Two years after the ACA coverage went into effect, we didn’t see any patients come in withoutpre-natal care for a long time.”

The Obama administration last fall had revealed that the cost of midlevel plans on the ACA’s health insurance marketplace would increase in 2017 by 116 percent on average, news reports say.

A senior attendee called the ACA the “Unaffordable Care Act.” When he signed up for Obamacare, he was paying about $200 a month, but now his cost has risen to $500 a month. He said Medicare wasworking pretty well before.

Others said lawmakers blew it when they opted for Obamacare, written largely by the insurance industry, instead of a single-payer health care system like Canada that is simpler and would havefunctioned as a “Medicare for all.”

Larsen added the story of retirees like a woman from Maple Falls who benefitted from the act. She and her husband require daily medication. The woman wrote online, “If we did not receive thisassistance for my spouse – like reduced premiums, assistance with his prescriptions….we would be living on the street.”

Larsen said while he stands firmly in the camp of supporting the act, he’s like fellow Democrats who have to decide on a strategy of either a “hell no, we won’t go” approach, take a middle ground, or ifrepeal goes forward, determine how the party can shape the outcome of a replacement.

He believes any plan needs to take care of pre-existing conditions, address more-affordable deductible and premiums, and include contraceptive and maternity coverage and essential benefits. He alsospoke about the importance of not leaving mental illness unaccounted for.

“Mental health coverage was virtually non-existent until the ACA,” Larsen said. “The essential benefits package resulted in coverage like we had never had before.”

Larsen insisted that any Republican replacement plan should be judged on standards for coverage, quality and costs.

Town hall talk wasn’t limited to health care. Issues over ethics, immigration policies, the travel ban involving seven Muslim-majority countries, trade issues, the president and his personal businessholdings, and his ties to Russia were just a few of the topics the audience asked about.

Attendees raised issues about activities in the Trump White House.

Larsen opined, “If you’re hunting rabbits, you can’t chase every rabbit down the rabbit hole. Right now, there are so many rabbits.”

Contact Larsen

•Last month, Larsen launched a new online platform for Washingtonians to share their stories about how they or someone they know has benefited from the act. To share your story visitwww.larsen.house.gov/shareyourstory.

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