Wilton Manors Town Hall on the Future of Health Care

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On April 21 about 100 people gathered at the Pride Center to discuss access to health care. Town Hall panelists included US Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL), Gary Resnick (Mayor of Wilton Manors), and Dr. Toni Lewis (Service Employees International Union). Deutch represents Wilton Manors as well as other parts of Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

Mayor Gary Resnick acknowledged that some people still lack access to health care. Speaking as a mayor, an employer and a consumer, Resnick said, “Health care is a right, but our system is broken.” He pointed out that Wilton Manors faces three major health challenges: an aging population, a growing population with HIV and a large population of low-income service industry workers without employer-based health insurance.

Deutch emphasized that any plan to fix access to health care had to provide services, and hold down costs. He labeled both the failed GOP plan and the new one, “Trumpcare.” According to Deutch, Trumpcare 2.0 would shift decisions about access to health care to the states. Rick Scott could allow insurers to bar people with pre-exiting conditions from service. Scott could also eliminate required coverage for transgender, substance abuse or mental health services.

When Deutch stated, “I am not prepared to leave [access to health care] up to Governor Scott,” the audience broke into applause. Trumpcare 2.0 would also defund Planned Parenthood.

During the discussion, an audience member decried partisanship, and advocated a “no labels,” problem-solver approach. Deutch distinguished between problem-solving and the false equivalence of the “no labels” position. Deutch had helped to found the bipartisan Congressional Climate Change Caucus. In order to join, a person has to bring in someone from the other party. As of March 30, this caucus had 34 members, 17 Republicans and 17 Democrats. Deutch described this caucus as an example of a bipartisan problem-solving approach.

Deutch contrasted that caucus with the GOP’s trench warfare on access to health care. All newly implemented programs encounter unanticipated problems. Traditionally, legislators work to strengthen these new programs. Instead, the GOP has voted to repeal the Affordable Care ACT (ACA) over 50 times, but has failed to develop any alternative that even a majority of the GOP in the House could support. Deutch cited Governor Rick Scott as the worst example of partisanship threatening health care access.

Several people in the audience reported still being unable to afford accessing health care. One person wanted to know about the Single-Payer, Medicare-for-All Bill of John Conyers (D-MI). This bill would allow people under 65 to buy into Medicare. That bill now has 78 co-sponsors. As the GOP is attacking the ACA, Deutch felt that protecting and building on the ACA had greater strategic and practical importance. He did say that legislators should examine the “public option” and opening up Medicare.

Dr. Toni Lewis said that it was time to “stop being surprised at the craziness.” She urged people to create “street heat” about health care to move legislators to action.

From the ACA’s beginnings, a significant number of people opposed it from the left. They favored Medicare-for-All or a single-payer system. Some people still cannot afford to access health care. As Florida has refused to expand Medicaid, a much larger number of potential Medicaid recipients lack any access. Some of those without access are LGBT. Some live with HIV. If some people still lack access to health care, they may also lack enthusiasm about protecting the ACA. The GOP may not be the only ones having trouble maintaining their coalition.

People can contact Congressman Deutch at https://teddeutch.house.gov/forms/writeyourrep/.
Follow Sean McShee on Twitter @SeanMcShee


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