Rep. Larsen holds ACA town hall
Larsen, the local Congressman whose district goes from north Everett to Bellingham, hosted a town hall because of the upcoming battle in Washington D.C. over the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
"The bill has been repealed on paper, the budget resolution passed and the new president signed it, but there are a thousand plus more steps that have to occur, which means a thousand steps where we can fight," he said.
Larsen said he supported the healthcare bill and cited the 30 million Americans who could lose insurance if it is repealed without a suitable replacement.
He also said that Washington state has gone from 14 percent uninsured to 5.8 percent uninsured since the ACA passed.
Local Julie Hauf said she was frustrated with those who complain about high premiums, because without the ACA "we wouldn't have insurance."
"We just got on the Affordable Care Act this February," she said, because her husband was laid off and they have multiple sons, including one who has a severe disability that has required multiple surgeries.
Local Lynn Wyckoff said the coverage for youth has helped her.
"My family has benefitted from the ACA, particularly regarding the coverage of young adults under 26. This has been extremely helpful. My daughter just graduated from college, her first job is $14 per hour and she's living at home. She wouldn't be able to have healthcare without the ACA," said Wyckoff.
Still others at the town hall were concerned about the increasing costs of healthcare, which have continued upward since the passing of the ACA.
"I really appreciate what it's done for the people I'm hearing about in here, I really feel good about that. But for me personally, not so much, it's a huge burden," said Arlington resident Neil Knutson.
He said before the ACA he was paying $260 per month with a $2,000 deductible, but currently has about $9,000 in premiums and a deductible around $5,000.
Local Paula Townsell also said that costs for healthcare are becoming increasingly prohibitive.
"The ACA stands for 'Affordable Care Act.' I mirror others here who say it's not affordable," she said.
Townsell said she supports the ACA, but would prefer a single-payer model (a government healthcare system like Canada's or the United Kingdom's model).
"I don't need profits being made off the healthcare of my family," she said.
Some optimists thought the ACA would reduce premiums, said Larsen, however this has not been the case.
"To anyone who said that the ACA was supposed to shrink your premiums, they were wrong."
However, Larsen said that increases in premiums were already happening before the ACA, and the inflation rate for premiums has not increased.
"The idea of the ACA was to move from double-digit increases each year to more manageable increases, and largely that's been the case," he said.
Rising drug prices could be a factor in those increasing premiums, and Larsen said the best way to combat that is allowing the government to negotiate drug prices, and an aggressive attorney general.
"We need an attorney general at the federal level who will use the law to go after these companies for price gouging," he said, adding he was skeptical the new administration's attorney general would pursue those cases.
He also agreed that there were parts of the ACA that could be improved.
"There are some good legitimate policy debates about the ACA that don't involve repealing it," he said, however he thinks the likely direction of congress involves a repeal.
The Democratic party has to decide whether they want to fight completely against the repeal, or negotiate for the best replacement possible, or somewhere in between, he said.
The essential benefits package of the ACA, which mandates things like mental health coverage and maternity care for insurance packages, is something Larsen said he wants to see remain.
"Mental health coverage in this country was practically nonexistent before the ACA," he said.
Local Patricia Thomson, who was a registered nurse for more than 40 years, said that before the ACA, three to five times a week patients who had no prenatal care would come in near the delivery of their baby, however after the passing of the bill, that number was reduced greatly.
"When someone came up to us without prenatal care, it drastically impacted the kind of care we were able to provide," she said.
Larsen said he wanted to save the ACA and encouraged local residents to talk about their own experiences, positive or negative, at his website at http://www.larsen.house.gov/shareyourstory.