Crowd hammers Stewart on ‘Obamacare’ repeal, replacement

ST. GEORGE – Tempers flared and an overflowing crowd repeatedly shouted down Rep. Chris Stewart during a town hall meeting Tuesday night as the Republican congressman tried to explain his party’s plan to do away with former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Audience members question Rep. Chris Stewart about plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act at a town hall meeting Tuesday sponsored by the Dixie Republican Forum, St. George, Utah, Jan. 31, 2017 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

Stewart spoke at a Dixie Republican Forum town hall meeting Tuesday night via video chat, giving a statement and then taking questions from the audience about the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”

The audience appeared to be a mix of residents – young and old, Democrat, Independent and Republican – rather than the solidly conservative crowd the Dixie Republican Forum generally attracts.

At issue was what the Republican Party, under President Trump’s leadership, will propose to replace the health care plan. Attendees were concerned about losing coverage and being denied insurance because of preexisting conditions.

“I’m all about changing what needs to be changed, fixing what needs to be fixed,” one woman said. “But to repeal without having something in the process … seems incredibly irresponsible.”

Audience members also expressed concern about the continuation of Medicare. Brent Holloway said he had called Stewart’s offices repeatedly trying to get reassurance on the issue.

Audience members question Rep. Chris Stewart about plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act at a town hall meeting Tuesday sponsored by the Dixie Republican Forum, St. George, Utah, Jan. 31, 2017 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

“Please, will the congressman just make the statement that guarantees that you will not disrupt Medicare,” Holloway said to Stewart. “I’m counting on it, I’ve worked my entire working life, and I don’t want privatized Medicare.”

Stewart replied that he did not know anyone in Washington D.C. who was in favor of privatizing Medicare, but his response was drowned out by many audience members saying “(Speaker of the House) Paul Ryan” as someone they believed was in favor of privatization.

Ryan has not ruled out privatization of Medicare as part of a major overhaul aimed at controlling the program’s long-term costs, the Washington Post reported Dec. 2.

Others expressed concerns about being able to afford any insurance. Even with the Affordable Care Act, an estimated 50,000-60,000 Utahns were caught in a coverage gap created by the Affordable Care Act and the state’s Medicaid limitations.

“Since you said that Medicaid would cover people, and Utah’s Medicaid rolls are closed and have been closed for years, what do you propose to do with all those people that can’t get health insurance?” one woman asked.

Audience members question Rep. Chris Stewart about plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act at a town hall meeting Tuesday sponsored by the Dixie Republican Forum, St. George, Utah, Jan. 31, 2017 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

Stewart said that each state had an open enrollment period so that people don’t wait until they’re injured or sick before they seek insurance. Medicaid is run by the states and states have some flexibility, Stewart said.

“I think Utah has done a wonderful job of helping those who really need help through Medicaid,” Stewart said.

“We don’t have Medicaid,” several audience members shouted.

Republicans have promised to help people that don’t have insurance, audience members said, but the crowd didn’t seem convinced that enough details have been released.

“Where is the plan?” audience members shouted, drowning out the congressman for a time.

Stewart said the replacement for the Affordable Care Act is outlined in the American Health Care Reform Act of 2017, and he hopes everyone will read the 184-page document. The act was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives Jan. 4.

Many audience members were concerned about losing health care coverage due to preexisting conditions, including one woman who said she suffered from PTSD and anxiety. Under the Affordable Care Act, she said she had received mental health coverage for the first time in her life.

Another woman was concerned about her father, who relies on coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act for life-saving medication.

In defense of the Republican’s plan to repeal the health care act, Stewart said he has heard from thousands of Utahns who had lost jobs or had their hours cut because of the Affordable Care Act. Others have complained of rapidly rising health insurance premiums and high deductibles.

For the many Americans living paycheck to paycheck, Stewart said, it’s nearly impossible to come up with up to $5,000 deductibles.

Rising costs and limited enrollment have driven many companies out of the insurance Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplace, he said, leaving many Americans – including Utahns – with only one company to choose from, and this limited competition results in higher costs.

The Affordable Care Act will not be repealed without having a replacement law ready, Stewart said, and there will be plenty of time for the transition.

The Republicans’ replacement for the Affordable Care Act will include a health savings account, a tax credit for insurance premiums and other changes. It also includes tort reform to reduce defensive medicine, such as a physician ordering too many tests or procedures out of fear of a malpractice lawsuit.

And instead of compelling people to buy health care insurance, Stewart said the plan is to make it attractive and affordable so consumers will want to purchase it.

“Our legislation will make it easier and cheaper to get portable insurance, increases access to and flexibility of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), reforms medical liability laws, spurs competition between insurers and protects individuals with pre-existing conditions,” Stewart said in a statement earlier this month.

Gov. Gary Herbert urged caution earlier this month in a letter to U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, warning that health coverage for 180,000 Utahns would be in jeopardy if the Affordable Care Act is repealed without a replacement plan.

Read more: Repeal of Obamacare? Herbert issues caution, Stewart says replacement ‘in the works’

Email: japplegate@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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12 Comments

  • Utahguns February 1, 2017 at 11:59 am

    C’mon people…
    The ACA won’t be repealed without a better plan…that’s just common sense.
    Besides, the new plan won’t penalize you if you decide not to purchase it, unlike Obama’s plan that uses the IRS to enforce his health care participation.
    What you snowflakes and liberals don’t understand is that thousands of Utahns had lost jobs or had their hours cut because of the Affordable Care Act. There’s also the rapidly rising health insurance premiums and high deductibles that are occuring. My friends ACA premiums have more than doubled so far, and many of the prescriptions that were available to him last year are either no longer covered or have doubled and sometimes tripled in cost.
    Anyway you look at it, when the (democratic) government FORCES you to do anything and the involvement of the IRS is envolved to make sure (under penalty) you oblidge, that’s what’s unfair.

    I wonder how many of these protestors were paid to show up ?

    • comments February 1, 2017 at 1:17 pm

      “The ACA won’t be repealed without a better plan”

      That depends totally on the trump team. If it was left to congress we’d get a run-of-the-mill neo-con special interest greed fest–something worse than Obongocare. We’ll seem what the new pres hatches up. Guys like Stewart would lead us towards nothing but failure and lining his own pockets.

    • KarenS February 1, 2017 at 4:58 pm

      I hardly think the people who showed up to hear Chris Stewart were either paid or “protesters” as you called them. I know people who have pre-existing conditions who are worried sick about whatever will “replace” the ACA. (By the way, pre-existing conditions cover almost everything from high blood pressure to pregnancy). It is simple economics that in order to cover pre-existing conditions (and covering the under 26 group) the money has to come from somewhere. Killing the individual mandate removes that funding source. It is that simple . So far the only operative word that the Republicans are using is “access” to healthcare for people with pre-existing conditions. Not very comforting.

    • UHPP-HP February 2, 2017 at 5:07 pm

      Utahguns. Yes, the ACA will likely be repealed. But whether the replacement is better depends on a few factors. If you are sick or ever become sick, all of the replacement plans allow insurers to deny you coverage for having a pre-existing condition, or make you wait 18 months until they cover it. If you are old or grow old, your premiums will be higher because the age-band ratio will increase from 3:1 to 5:1. if you get cancer, don’t linger too much because the annual cap for benefits will be $400,000, and the lifetime cap will be $1.5M. If you are a woman, you premiums will be higher a man’s. If you have kids, preventive care, immunizations, and well-child checks will now have co-pays and other charges. If you plan to have kids, very few plans will have maternity care… so you must pay extra “pregnancy” premium for 10 months before you *conceive* your child otherwise the maternity care and delivery won’t be covered. And be careful during those 10 months, because birth control will no longer be covered. If you want to shop for the best deal, good luck–the one-stop marketplace website will be gone, and flight-by-night insurance plans from other states will attempt to convince you they offer real coverage (and toy might believe them).
      So if no one those conditions, issues, or problems affect you… then yes, your health insurance will be cheaper.
      Good luck. We’re going to need it.

  • comments February 1, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Republican plan to repeal and replace Obongocare. The new Republican replacement plan: let them eat cake.

  • Not_So_Much February 1, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    As one speaker mentioned “Where is this in the US CONSTITUTION?” Of course we need to live our lives with concern for our fellow citizens (yes I use citizens deliberately). While I will give of my own free will in those matters my limited funds will best be used, the federal government has no business be directly participating other than laws which promote fair offerings by private health and insurance companies. Crossing all state lines is at the top of this list.

    I certainly don’t have the answers but I do know we need to get back to constitutional governing with States rights and obligations. While Washington County is comprised of a majority of conservative God fearing people, it does not allow us to become detached from the efforts of a minority among us who do not understand the individual’s responsibility and those of governmental bodies.

    The USA has a current debt or $20 trillion and unfunded liabilities of $200 trillion. These number must be addressed just as each of us must balance the books in our own finances. With smart growth and truthful examination, we might be able to reduce the pain of these past mistakes. We will one way or another resolve the hard facts. The federal government does NOT have funds or authority to take care of everyone and everything in all 50 states.

    There is a vocal minority trying to hold onto idealistic but unrealistic ways of doing what is best for the future of individuals and the country. Conservatives must become more informed and engaged now before the worst does happen. Sadly, it looks more and more like it will not end well. God bless and help us all.

    • comments February 1, 2017 at 6:56 pm

      “The USA has a current debt or $20 trillion and unfunded liabilities of $200 trillion”

      The real question: to whom is all this “debt” even “owed”. It’s a complete illusion and a complete scam. If they’d taken the cash (resources) they blew on failed mid-east wars they could cover healthcare for everyone for decades.

      The individual mandate is just another way of gov’t helping to enslave the population to corrupt corporatist powers. They will force us to buy the product whether we like it or not.

  • .... February 1, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    I got new socks today

  • dodgers February 2, 2017 at 5:45 am

    This is what happens when you feed the Bears. As previously stated in an earlier comment, it is NOT our government’s role to provide health insurance, or even to subsidize it. They do have a role in creating basic laws, a framework, for the insurance industry, that’s all. We, as consumers, should be able to decide whether we want insurance, from who, the coverage/plan, etc., without force and penalty from the IRS. At the end of the day, not everyone wants health insurance and not everyone will be able to afford health insurance. It was like this before the ACA, after implementation of the ACA, and will be this way after the current laws are significantly changed. That’s just reality. Our greatest hope is to kick start the long-sick economy and create real opportunities and jobs (full time), so that those who desire health insurance have greater opportunity to purchase it.

    • UHPP-HP February 2, 2017 at 5:18 pm

      Dodgers. That is an interesting framework for public health. The result, however, would be people dying on the streets because they are dumped out of hospitals. After all, if someone chooses not to have insurance, but then somehow gets injured or sick, they will go to a hospital. But if the hospital follows your logic and says, “Sorry you should have had insurance, too bad,” then they can dump the person on the street. But wait, you say… the hospitals must take care of that person and write off the costs as charity care. In fact, that is the current law thanks to President Reagan. But who ends up paying for those abandoned costs? Well, anyone with health insurance pays for those costs. And because those charges were incurred in a hospital (the most expensive place to treat anyone and anything) the costs are astronomical. And let’s say the uninsured person the hospital helped gets a new infection (uncontrolled diabetes, extremity nerve damage, gangrene, needs amputation, also going blind), and the show up at the hospital a week later. And then a week after that. And then they get the $200,000 amputation. And now they can’t work, so they go on disability. Who pays for that? All of a sudden, a person who could have been helped by a $2,000 a year Medicaid plan and some insulin shots is costing the public (and those with insurance) millions and millions of dollars. That’s the problem with the pre-ACA system you envision. it’s was inefficient, inhumane, and wasted more money than you think it saved. Of course, if we let people expire on the street it would all be much cheaper and easier.

      • comments February 2, 2017 at 7:31 pm

        ” Of course, if we let people expire on the street it would all be much cheaper and easier.”

        Sounds like a libertarian dream come true

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