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Local GOP: Repeal ACA, but unsure about options

031817Republican2

Pasquotank County Republican Party Chairman Richard Gilbert speaks during the party convention, Saturday. The event was held at the Pasquotank County Courthouse.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Local Republicans agreed Saturday that the Affordable Care Act needs to go, but weren’t lockstep behind Congressional Republicans’ current plan to do so.

Last week, House Republicans unveiled the “American Health Care Act,” their proposal to meet GOP lawmakers’ campaign promises of repealing and replacing the seven-year-old Affordable Care Act. Congressional Democrats are in lock step against it while many conservative lawmakers oppose it as “Obamacare Lite” or similar pejoratives. As of Saturday, published reports suggested passage isn’t assured, but Republican President Donald Trump is personally working to win over lawmakers before a planned Thursday vote.

As far as Lynn Childs is concerned, the bill “stinks” right now. The Pasquotank Republican said she recently went to Washington D.C., as a part of an event with the group FreedomWorks, to lobby on health care reform. It leaves too many bad parts of the ACA, she said. FreedomWorks heard directly from important conservative lawmakers, including former presidential candidates and Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, and they’re not happy yet with the bill either, she explained.

Childs said she’s not happy with the tax credits the bill provides to offset costs of health insurance — those credits will become a growing and costly entitlement, some conservatives warn — and she said the bill leaves too many ACA regulations in place. Republicans need to lower the high costs of insurance premiums, she said, with moves like allowing insurance to be sold across state lines and negotiating lower prescription drug prices.

Government needs to get out of health care, Childs said.

Carol Terryberry similarly said the bill needs to undo more insurance regulations, explaining the ACA stifles consumer choice and competition with “one-size-fits-all” plans, adding, the ACA set higher minimum standards for insurance plans. She noted many states, including North Carolina, have only one or two insurers selling plans though the ACA’s marketplaces, and many have been raising premiums drastically. She said the ACA was in a “death spiral,” a term for when insurance costs continuing to rise as people drop coverage until finally a market collapses.

Like Childs, she also expressed confidence that, with less government interference, the free market could lower the costs of insurance.

Pasquotank GOP Chairman Pete Gilbert said he believed objections to the bill were being worked out, offering his confidence in Trump’s handling of the matter. He also said simply doing away with the ACA’s individual mandate would be enough to make the law die out. The mandate sets tax penalties for people who don’t have insurance but could afford it. Gilbert said it’s wrong to force people to buy insurance. Though insurance pools do rely on younger, healthier people participating and offsetting costs of older, sicker people, Gilbert argued it’s wrong to force people to shoulder that burden.

Gilbert also addressed a recent government estimate that the replacement bill would cause up to 24 million Americans to lose insurance coverage through 2026; some of those people would choose to not have coverage, he said. Republican lawmakers have also vowed to continue working to lower insurance costs, but haven’t released key details yet.

Jake Riggs, a guest speaker at the GOP convention, also weighed in on the debate over repealing the ACA. Active in the College Republicans club at UNC-Chapel Hill, he said he favored repeal, but said Republicans needed to focus on lowering the cost of health care itself. Insurance costs are a symptom of problems in health care, he explained, adding he saw irony in Republicans “treating the wrong symptoms.”

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