Indiana Dems defend ACA in health care debate

Post Tribune

In 2010, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky returned to Northwest Indiana and was met with anger over the Affordable Care Act.

Seven years later, the Merrillville Democrat is once again seeing debate over health care legislation, but now the conversation has changed.

Senate Republicans have been divided over the current proposal, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, postponed a vote on the measure until after Congress' weeklong July 4 recess. Among other things, some conservative lawmakers feel the Senate plan doesn't go far enough in repealing "Obamacare," while more moderate senators have been concerned about its proposed cuts to Medicaid.

In 2010, when the Affordable Care Act passed, Visclosky said, people didn't know much about what the law meant and that made them nervous.

Uncertainty always causes people to be concerned, Visclosky said, and the ACA in 2010 was a fundamental change. Visclosky said the discussion on the bill in 2010 also faced misinformation about what the bill contained.

Now, there are real world experiences as to what the ACA looks like in practice, Visclosky said.

"It's more than just a concept manipulated in public debate," Visclosky said.

As Republican lawmakers look to overhaul the health care system, Visclosky said, people know how the ACA affected their lives and are upset over the programs and services that could be removed under the current proposals.

People are afraid they will lose coverage, their costs will go up and their children might no longer get coverage under their plans, he said.

There have been a number of efforts to repeal and replace the ACA, Visclosky said, but those so far have stalled.

"We can make the Affordable Care Act better," Visclosky said.

As the Senate proposal awaits further action, U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-South Bend, said in a statement that a bipartisan solution must be reached to put together a health bill that works for the American people.

On Friday morning, President Donald Trump sent out a tweet encouraging Congress to repeal the ACA and deal with a replacement plan later.

"If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!" the president tweeted.

McConnell on Friday reacted to the president's tweet, saying "we are going to stick with that path."

Donnelly, however, in a statement called for Republicans and Democrats to work together in reforming the health care system and help improve access and affordability for Hoosiers.

"It is clear that this current bill would not improve our health care system, but rather would result in people paying more and taking care away from millions of Americans," Donnelly said.

U.S. Sen. Todd Young, a Bloomington Republican, earlier this month was non-committal in a tweet about the Senate plan.

"I am reviewing the discussion draft and speaking with folks at home, but one thing is clear: doing nothing is not an option. Obamacare has failed Hoosiers as prices have skyrocketed, insurers have left the marketplace leaving severely limited choices, and deductibles have risen to a level where, for some, insurance is useless," he said in the tweet.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, released a statement recently that said he'd study the Senate proposal to see how it would effect Indiana.

"Indiana isn't alone; insurers are pulling out of Obamacare in states across the country," Holcomb said in the statement. "This underscores the need for reform, and Indiana is poised to lead the way if given the flexibility and time to tailor the best solutions to meet the needs of our people."

Nevertheless, Visclosky said that perhaps, if the majority sees that there is still support for the ACA, lawmakers can begin negotiating to improve the health care system. The sooner Congress removes the uncertainty, it will be helpful to the entire health care system, Visclosky said. Congress shouldn't undermine the system, he said.

"Let's talk about real positive change to move forward," Visclosky said.