Supporters of President Barack Obama’s signature health policy gathered across Pennsylvania Thursday to describe the ways the Affordable Care Act has saved them money and kept them healthy.
They want President-elect Donald Trump and the new Congress to reconsider their plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
The Pennsylvania Health Access Network organized the anti-repeal events outside U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s satellite offices. Perhaps 25 to 40 people gathered in Philadelphia, another 10 or 15 in Allentown.
For many advocates of Obamacare, Trump’s victory in November was unsettling.
Trump talked at length on the campaign trail about repealing and replacing Obamacare. Congressional Republicans says they will quickly pull back on the law in the new year.
“There’s been a lack of transparency around any kind of replacement for the Affordable Care Act,” said Patrick Keenan with the left-leaning Pennsylvania Health Access Network. “And it really needs to be clear that people’s lives, people’s abilities to provide for their families, are on the line.”
Between expanded Medicaid and the individual marketplace, more than a million people in Pennsylvania get health care coverage through the ACA.
There’s a little more time for people who want coverage that begins Jan. 1. HealthCare.gov has extended the enrollment deadline through December 19.
Brian Kline from Bucks County braved the cold in Allentown to tell his story.
Kline’s care and treatment for colon cancer cost about $100,000, and he said those bills would have overwhelmed him if he weren’t enrolled in Pennsylvania’s expanded Medicaid program.
“I make $11.66 an hour, working for the most part 12 hours a week,” he said. “Thank God for the ACA, for Obamacare.”
But Elizabeth Stelle from the Commonwealth Foundation said repeal is exactly the right next step.
“We aren’t saying that the status quo from 2009 was OK, but the Affordable Care Act did not work,” Stelle said.
She’s especially looking to throw out the requirement that every insurance plan offer a standard package of “essential health benefits.”
“That alone has driven up the cost of insurance for folks,” she said.
The Commonwealth Foundation advocates fiscally conservative government.
Consumers want more freedom to decide which health services they actually need in order to keep their monthly insurance premium low, Stelle said.
Stelle said a friend from the Reading, Pennsylvania, area has had insurance coverage premiums increase dramatically.
“From $122 a month to this year it’s $337 a month. And his deductible at the same time is skyrocketing,” she said. “He’s paying more and more for health insurance he’s not really using.”
“The Affordable Care Act was not just supposed to make insurance more accessible, but make it more affordable, and it’s absolutely failed,” she said.
Any repeal and replace plan should also work to equalize tax treatment between people who get insurance through work and those who buy coverage on their own without the negotiating power of a larger workforce, Stelle said.