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Politics: Flawed health care rollout has silver lining for county GOP

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Problems with implementing the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature health-care law, are presenting Republicans a golden opportunity to seize the day and change the course of reform, Georgetown County Republican Party Chairman Randy Hollister says.

Hollister told members of the Waccamaw Neck Republican Club this week there are two schools of thought about the GOP’s way forward.

First: offer no help to Democrats. “They got into this mess with none of our votes,” Hollister said. “Let them live with it. There’s a lot to be said for that. At a visceral, gut level I think, ‘You bet!’”

Second: reform health care by offering a bipartisan solution. “The other way we look at it is to say this is wildly unpopular,” Hollister said. “There is a moment in time right now where the public has turned on the Obama magic. They have turned on the idea. They realize there’s a problem, and it’s affecting them personally and in their pocketbook. Perhaps this is the opportunity to go in on the white horses and save the day.”

Hollister said he leans toward the second solution. “I could buy into this method a lot better,” he said, “if we had different leadership in D.C. I can hear Obama say Republicans won’t help. With [House Speaker John] Boehner and [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell, I don’t hear the eloquent spokesman articulating why we should follow this path.”

Hollister said repealing the Affordable Care Act is not possible until at least Jan. 20, 2017. “Obama’s ego will not allow him to repeal this, no matter what,” he said. “There are some options out there, some great common sense plans.”

The goals of the Affordable Care Act were defined by the president four years ago as providing more security and stability to those who have insurance, providing insurance for those who don’t have it and slowing the growth of costs for families, businesses and government.

“Those three things, by themselves, don’t look unreasonable at all,” Hollister said. “Pretty simple stuff.”

Hollister said Obama made other promises that have made the act unworkable and has even failed to deliver on this three main goals. Heritage Today, Hollister said, estimated 15 million health insurance policy cancellations so far. Millions of people have been pushed off full-time jobs to part-time jobs to keep employers from having to pay penalties for not insuring them. There are fewer participating doctors and hospital carriers under the act.

Hollister said the typical Blue Cross plan dropped more than half the doctors. In some states as many as two-thirds of the doctors are gone. Of the four insurance carriers writing policies in South Carolina, he added, only two cover care at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Hollister offered Obama half credit for providing insurance to those who don’t have it. “A lot of them get it free,” he said. “It’s free because we pay for it. Free for them, but not free to us. The other group signing up were previously uninsured because of their health situation.”

Hollister said Obama’s third goal of slowing the growth of costs is “another strikeout” with higher maximum out-of-pocket deductible’s coming next spring.

“We keep hearing it’s about websites,” Hollister said. “The administration keeps trying to focus on the website problems because that can be fixed. It’s not about the website. With enough time and money you can fix a website. The problems are structural, foundational problems with the way the system is designed. That has a real bearing on us Republicans. We are sitting with a decision: Which way do we go?”

Hollister said his son, Ken, 23, was paying $75 a month for health insurance and as a 60-year-old he was paying about $400 a month. “Obamacare makes it a law that you can’t charge me more than three times more than someone in their 20s,” Hollister said. “I should be paying six times as much. They nudge my premiums down a little, and kids get triple.” Hollister said his son’s rate jumped to $225 a month.

“The reason they need young people,” he said, “is they’re gouging them. It’s that gouging that helps pay for me.”

Hollister said the government needs seven million people to sign up in the insurance exchanges with 40 percent of those healthy and previously uninsured. “That’s three million young people,” he said, “who didn’t see the value of paying $75 for coverage to now go out and pay $225 for coverage with a higher deductible and higher out of pocket. They are not going to be there. They are not that stupid.”

Hollister said people should be able to buy insurance that is appropriate for them. “I say we go the public and say we need to begin a bipartisan process to create health reform, true health reform in America. There are problems that needed to be fixed, but Obamacare made them worse. We need to have a hearing, bring people in and find the problems we are trying to solve. We started with what liberal academics had in mind. What they really wanted was single-payer government health care. They couldn’t get it and started peeling it back from there until they got to what they could get through Congress.

“We need to start a bipartisan process that looks at solutions and takes hold of the magic of this moment. Now is the time to seize the opportunity. Let’s come to the table with good ideas.”

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