Town hall brings large crowd of Obamacare supporters

Feb 15, 2017 Issues: Health Care, Social Services

• Go Anacortes
• Briana Alzola
• 2/15/2017
While holding a photo of her son Lucas aloft, Jennifer Salcedo shared the story of how his illness has affected her family and asked U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen to join her in doing everything possible to prevent the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Larsen was in Anacortes for a town hall meeting Saturday to discuss the act and other issues facing his constituents. About 200 people attended the event, which also covered climate change, President Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, the immigration ban and more. Every seat was filled, with other attendees lining the walls and sitting on the floor.
The crowd was overwhelmingly in favor of protecting the ACA, also known as Obamacare. No one spoke publicly for its repeal.
Affordable Care Act
Salcedo and her daughter Lauren told Lucas’ story at the event. Lucas has seizures just about every day and has since he was small. If there was a lifetime cap on services, he would have reached it long ago, Salcedo said. His medication and treatments total about $4,000 a month, which doesn’t include life-saving packs that he may need. Those packs are $500 each, and Lucas could need up to two a day or just one every two months, Salcedo said.
“My question for you is: How are we protecting the most vulnerable,” she asked Larsen.
Larsen told her that stories like hers help show lawmakers the human price of the decisions they make.He said everyone has a right to be heard and to push for change.
“It’s real to you, and it’s real to me,” he said. “Make it real to that person doing the voting.”
He said the high turnouts at his town hall meetings and other forums like it are taking a step to showing his Republican counterparts that the support for this act is there and those people are willing to speak out and fight for what they want.
He encouraged people to express displeasure if lawmakers move toward things like implementing lifetime coverage caps.
“There will be a high political price to pay,” he said.
Larsen said he fought to get the Affordable Care Act going, and he will not stop fighting for it now. It should be improved, not repealed, he said.
But that will take Republicans and Democrats, he said.
“We are trying to establish an environment where negotiations can happen,” he said.
Ashikin Wan-Noor of Anacortes said portions of the ACA have put financial strains on her and her husband.
As a two-person, self-employed household, the couple had to go on a bronze level insurance plan — expensive and with minimal coverage, she said. She is not old enough for Medicare, not poor enough for subsidies and not rich enough to afford better insurance, she said.
She would like to see a plan that is not based on the Modified Adjusted Gross Income, which determines what level of income will lead to subsidies.
That number is the same for the entire country, she said, and it shouldn’t be that way because cost of living differs by location.
“It’s not one size fits all,” she said.
She said she’s also not asking for a plan paid for by vouchers or health savings accounts.
Another attendee to the town hall and one of the only vocal Trump supporters in the group asked Larsen how he proposes to pay for the Affordable Care Act or a replacement.
Larsen said as it stands, the ACA is paid for by both taxes and out-of-pocket premiums. Additional costs and how they are covered depends on what happens to the act next, he said.
Another attendee, a woman with cerebral palsy, said her medication would be $700 a month without insurance. She worries what will happen if she loses insurance and insurers are again allowed to exclude preexisting conditions.
Larsen said the coverage won’t change overnight, but that he would work hard to help with a smooth transition.
A Skagit-area doctor said she knows many people in the medical community support the Affordable Care Act and that it has been life saving for many patients.
Another speaker, a public defender, said many of her clients, who are poor, have mental health issues that are addressed only because they now have insurance through the ACA.
Larsen agreed that any change should come with a backup plan.
“If it is repealed without a replacement, it would mean disaster for our country,” he said.
It would especially affect those middle-class families who could lose health insurance coverage, he said.
Any replacement plan should be judged by set standards based on coverage, quality and cost, Larsen said.
“Put it out there, and let people judge it,” he said.
Larsen said people are speaking up at town hall meetings and other public forms around the country to improve the ACA rather than just repeal it.
Larsen said he is pushing for Medicare to have the ability to negotiate drug prices. He was part of a team that was pushing for that to be passed along with the original ACA, but it didn’t make it into the final act, Larsen said.
He said he will continue to push because tools need to be in place to deal with price gouging.
Immigration ban
Larsen commended Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who filed a lawsuit against an executive order put in place by Trump to ban entry of non-citizens and refugees from certain Middle Eastern countries for 90 days.
The crowd at the town hall cheered and applauded when Larsen mentioned the lawsuit.
“The constitution means something still,” he said.
Trump’s business
“The president needs to release his tax returns,” Larsen said. “The public can’t know what his business interests are until they see those tax returns.”
He also addressed Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist. Before stepping into that role, he was the chief executive officer of Trump’s presidential campaign and before that he was the executive chair of Breitbart News, a far-right news and commentary website.
Last month, President Trump appointed Bannon to be a member of the Principals Committee of the National Security Council.
National security should not be based on politics, Larsen said, it should be based on security.
“I do not think that Steve Bannon belongs in the White House, and I do not think he belongs on the National Security Council.”
One attendee at the town hall also brought up the idea of impeachment for the president, which Larsen said he does not support unless there is a very clear violation of law.
Impeachment is the toughest thing to do, and the standard should be very high, he said.
“I hope I never have to do it,” he said.
The president failing and being impeached is very bad for the country, Larsen said.