Proposed repeal of ACA worries Hampton Roads residents

November 15, 2016
In The News

Alhough President-elect Donald Trump has said recently that he may keep portions of the Affordable Care Act instead of completely doing away with it as he had initially promised, the possibility of the ACA’s repeal has Hampton Roads residents who use its health care plans worried.

Hampton resident and small business owner David Williams has Type I diabetes. Costs for his health insurance alone topped more than $2,500 a month before he enrolled in ACA. He still pays monthly premiums on his Marketplace plans, just like people who pay them through their employer, but it's much more affordable, he said.

"My fear is that I'm going to lose my insurance and not be able to get insurance because of of pre-existing condition," Williams said this week. The ACA bars insurers from dropping people or denying them because of pre-existing conditions.

Williams' daughter, Norfolk resident Jessie Williams, is a Hillary Clinton supporter and ACA advocate. She has stronger words about its possible elimination.

"In my opinion, (repealing ACA) would create a public health care crisis," Jessie Williams said. "Gutting ACA doesn't just hurt my dad. It hurts grad students, college students, independent contractors, working parents — your neighbors and your friends — could be left without health insurance."

More than 380,000 Virginians signed up for or renewed their ACA health insurance in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Nationwide, roughly 20 million people purchase health care through Marketplace plans, the office reported after the 2015 enrollment period ended earlier this year.

Trump's Virginia campaign chairman, syndicated radio host John Fredericks, said Trump's transition team is working on a better plan for health care.

"(Obamacare) is not a health care program, it's simply a transfer of wealth from one group of people to another," Fredricks said. "Many people had coverage, but can't afford coverage because the Obamacare costs have gone up. This thing has been an unmitigated disaster for Americans."

Obamacare is wildly unpopular, Fredricks says, and the ACA forced middle-class families out of the health care system.

Virginia Beach resident Alison Flowers pays for coverage on her ACA plan to cover a son with asthma and a daughter in college.

"When Trump won, the first thing I thought was, 'Oh my God — we're going to lose our insurance. What am I going to do?'" Flowers said.

Experts questioned whether completely gutting Obamacare was possible, the Associated Press reported, but said it could be altered significantly by the new president and a Republican Congress. Replacing the 2010 health care law could take a long time, and some of its features may remain. Republicans are saying they want to protect people who now are covered from losing health care in the shift.

Voters "don't want Washington to fix Obamacare, they want to make health care affordable," said House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, whose committee oversees much of health care. "I'm confident we will have more truly affordable health care for just as many Americans."

U.S. Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, D-Newport News, has championed the ACA. In a statement, Scott said when Republicans talk about repealing the law, people have to remember how broken the American health care system was before the ACA, with millions of people losing health care coverage, those with pre-existing conditions unable to get coverage, and people going bankrupt trying to pay high medical bills.

"The Affordable Care Act solved many of these issues. Americans can no longer be denied access to health insurance because of a pre-existing condition. Young adults can now stay on their parents' health insurance until their 26th birthday. The Medicare trust fund is solvent well into the next decade," Scott said.

Scott acknowledged that the ACA hasn't fixed all problems with the health care system, but urges Republicans to build on what's in place, not tear it down.

Fredericks said Trump wants to preserve the best features of Obamacare while providing the best health care for all Americans. "President-elect Trump is dedicated to finding an insurance alternative to Obamacare that benefits all Americans, across all demographics and income levels, rather than just a few selected groups," he said.