HARTFORD, CT – Surrounded by people worried about losing their health insurance if Congress repeals the Affordable Care Act (ACA) U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5, Monday both implored President-elect Donald Trump and Republican politicians to shelve the idea.
“Repealing it (ACA) without replacing it is a recipe for catastrophe,” said Blumenthal, who conceded Democrats like himself and Esty were in for the “fight of our lives’’ to save Obamacare since Trump, and the Republican-controlled House and Senate have already vowed to kill it.
Blumenthal said repealing the ACA will be “rolling back progress and thousands of people in Connecticut and millions across the country will lose their insurance.”
Connecticut is one of more than a dozen states that embraced Medicaid expansion in 2010 under former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell and then created its own state-based health insurance exchange, where at the moment two private health insurance companies insure more than 104,000 Connecticut residents. There are more than 759,000 residents currently receiving Medicaid, according to the Department of Social Services.
“Connecticut has been a model state in rolling out the ACA,” Esty said. She said getting rid of Obamacare would cause “massive chaos,” and not just for those insured, but the companies that insure them and the overall economy.
Blumenthal and Esty held a press conference on the topic at the Legislative Office Building Monday, but they will also attend a rally on Sunday, Jan. 15 to call attention to the issue.
“Billions and billions have been invested into the health insurance program. This would be taking 1/6th of our economy – and saying maybe in three years we will replace it with something else,” Esty said.
Republicans in Congress have insisted they have a plan to place it.
“The notion that they can repeal and do nothing,” said Esty, “is just nonsense.”
Those who support Obamacare say killing it will take health care away from millions of Americans, allow insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, and raise health care costs among other catastrophic consequences.
The Senate will take its first steps toward repealing President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reform act by the end of the week, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday.
Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” McConnell said: “There ought not to be a great gap” between repealing the act and replacing it and that Republicans would be “replacing it rapidly after repealing it.”
McConnell did not define what he meant by “rapidly.” Another top Republican, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, told Fox News that it could take two years to fully replace the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.
“I think everybody recognizes that there will be a transition period,” Scalise said. “President-elect Trump and our leaders have said nobody is going to get the rug pulled out from underneath them.”
Scalise cited a previously proposed Republican bill to repeal the healthcare law that laid out a two-year transition period for putting in place an alternative. “That’s a benchmark for what we’re looking at again,” he added.
Since his election on Nov. 8, Trump, who will be sworn in as Obama’s successor on Jan. 20, has made clear he wants to move swiftly on his campaign pledge to repeal and replace the 2010 law.
Republicans have a chance to make good on the Republican president-elect’s promise since they control both chambers of Congress.
House Republicans took a step last week to clear the decks for Obamacare repeal by approving a procedural rule that would make it harder for Democrats to impede progress on such legislation.
Repealing the act without an immediate replacement raises the question as to what happens to those who have insurance under Obamacare.
In a letter to Kevin McCarthy, majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Connecticut’s Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade implored Congress not to repeal the law – but to improve it.
She said areas that need improvement are market stability, regulatory environment and state flexibility, and cost containment.
“Since 2011, Connecticut’s uninsured rate has gone from 8 percent to a historic low of 3.8 percent,” Wade said. “Approximately 110,000 Connecticut residents have obtained coverage through our state-sponsored marketplace and the expansion of Medicaid provided coverage for more than 200,000 residents.”
Blumenthal said he, too, believes the ACA isn’t perfect, but that Congress should be working to fix what was wrong with Obamacare are an already in-place substitute.
Pressed as to how he, and other Democrats, will be able to convince the Republican majority in Congress to stop a vote to kill the ACA, the senator said he believes some more moderate Republicans are already having second thoughts.
To save Obamacare, three Republican senators would have to vote in favor of keeping it, along with every Democrat.
A story written by Axios on Sunday listed seven GOP senators who are wavering in their support of Trump – and the majority of Republicans plans to dump the ACA.
The seven, Axios said, are Susan Collins, John McCain, Lamar Alexander, Rob Portman, Ron Johnson, Bill Cassidy and Tom Cotton.
Blumenthal said he thought some of his Republican counterparts are “being brought back to earth from their cloud of rhetoric.’’
He added that the GOP is finding out that coming up with a health care plan is “hard.”
One of those speaking at the press conference was Colleen Brunetti, of West Hartford, whose pulmonary hypertension medications cost $250,000 a year.
She said she was diagnosed nine years ago and has “defied the odds’’ by living as long as she has.
“I have never stopped fighting,” said Brunetti, who added, “My access to health care has allowed me to reach my potential.”
Also speaking was Gaye Hyre, from West Haven, a breast cancer survivor who said she was on a fixed income and is worried about being able to afford her insurance.
“I worry that I would be uninsurable,” Hyre said. “It always hangs over your head as a cancer survivor of the possibility of a re-occurrence.
“If I had a reoccurrence and I lost my health care,” continued Hyre, “I would die.”