Conservative group skeptical of Obamacare holds town hall for Tampa citizens

10/18/13 Naveen Sultan
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Affordable Care Act, Americans for Prosperity, Obamacare

photo by Naveen Sultan

Efforts by Republicans in Congress to try to stop the Affordable Care Act have not succeeded despite a two-week partial government shutdown. As reality sets in that Obamacare is here to stay, questions about what it means for consumers have soared. The conservative group, Americans for Prosperity held a town hall session last night in Tampa where panel members fielded questions from about 50 small business owners and concerned citizens.

Panelist Josh Archambault is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, a free market think tank in Florida. He has also worked as a health policy fellow for the Heritage Foundation.

"In my travels talking to average citizens, small business owners, insurance brokers even whose job this is to explain the law, they are very confused and I think it reflects the complexity of the law the fact that there are over 20 thousand pages of regulation that go along with the law just reflects the complexity of the law and how difficult it is for the average citizen to truly understand how it’s going to affect them starting next year."

Wes Maddox is the Executive Director at the Oil Clean Corporation. The company changes oil for Navy warships. He thinks Obamacare will cause major problems for his team because the law mandates businesses with over 50 employees to provide health insurance. Maddox said when he grows his business he’ll do it by illegally hiring undocumented workers.

“We are a labor intensive organization and right now we are capped at 50. We can not hire more than 50. Now I know we’ve got a year’s worth of reprieve but we have to train those 50 because some time next year when we move into Newport News and Mayport Naval Air Stations we will need to hire more people and they will have to be by nature of the Affordable Care Act illegal immigrants because they can’t go on the Affordable Care Act for 13 years.”

Maddox said he’s been involved in business all his life and has never seen anything as harmful to business owners as the Affordable Care Act.

“It absolutely frightens me because there is no serious discussion about how to make it more business friendly. It’s not business friendly. Unfortunately there are people that you know are not going to get health care until they rise above an entry-level position and that’s just the reality of the capitalist system.”

Jan LaGrone is a health insurance advisor with US Health Insurance. She works with small business owners and people like freelancers who have to find insurance without the help of an employer. She said many of her clients feel that their back is against the wall and are limited in options because of mandates to purchase health insurance in the new law.

“Extreme concern, extreme confusion. There’s fear out there, there is worry out there because this is going to be just a whole different environment for them. We’ve been very successful in trying to help them and resolve some of those fears but with this mandate and things changing everyday. You know think you have the answers and then you turn around and wake of the next morning and you don’t have answers.”

One attendee, Debra Guest, who already has health insurance, said anytime government regulates or dictates people’s personal affairs there is trouble.

“You go back to the days of to me the best democratic president that ever lived JFK. You need small government, you need privatization, you need the experts to tell the government what is best suited not the government telling the experts. Who’s the expert here? Not a bureaucrat, a doctor.”

Dr. Mark Morris is a pediatrician who is a strong advocate of the Affordable Care Act. He disagreed with some of the information that was shared during the town hall because it downplayed the benefits of Medicaid for people in need. Florida needs to expand Medicaid to cover the most vulnerable citizens such as the working poor, people that are making low wages and can’t afford to buy healthcare said Morris.

“So because I’ve worked with Medicaid for so many years with children and found it to be such a useful and cost-effective program that I hate to hear people say that it won’t work for adults because I know it works. I know it works for children.”

Americans for Prosperity has scheduled another five Obamacare town hall meetings throughout Florida where they plan to answer citizens’ questions about the Affordable Care Act. The organization's Regional Director April Schiff said they are a completely donor funded organization. According to the New York Times their funding is heavily provided by the Koch brothers.

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