Well this is new (for me). I just contacted Pennsylvania’s two Senators to let them know my thoughts on the Affordable Care Act and the Republican effort to repeal it, which is moving forward in the Senate.
At this point it seems highly unlikely that the move to repeal the law that’s widely known as “Obamacare” can be stopped. But while the president elect and Republican members of Congress say the plan is to “repeal and replace,” the law, the emphasis for now seems to be on repeal first, replace later.
But Republicans have been promising to do that for years, and have yet to agree on a suitable replacement that won’t result in millions of people getting kicked off their insurance.
So now that I’m no longer working a job that requires me to hold my tongue on these issues, I decided to use it.
For the first time in my life, I called and wrote to my elected representatives.
I was already planning to contact Republican Pennsylvania US Senator Pat Toomey, but after reading a California friend’s Facebook post about his conversation thanking his representatives for their position, I decided to place a call to Democratic Pennsylvania US Senator Bob Casey’s office first.
Casey has been standing up for the ACA, and even offered an amendment to a budget bill last night that would have prevented discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions. It wasn’t approved. But I wanted to thank him for trying.
So I called his Philadelphia district office, spoke with the gentleman who answer the phone, told him that I appreciated the work that was being done to try to save the ACA… realized that it was probably not going to be enough, and that Republicans would push for a repeal and replace, and then urged him to let Casey know that any replacement should continue to have provisions including the pre-existing condition protection, Medicaid expansion, and others that help ensure millions of people have access to coverage.
I gave my name and zip code, and that was the end of the call.
Then I called Pat Toomey’s Philadelphia office. The line was busy. And it was busy every time I called back over the next half hour.
I suspect I wasn’t the only person who decided to call Toomey’s office. But I might have been one of a few that called Casey’s. My takeaway: people are more likely to criticize than thank.
So if you’ve had a political awakening in recent months, maybe it’s a good time to remember that it’s important to support those who are fighting on your behalf as well as to express your views to those who hold different positions.
Anyway, while I’ve read in various places that politicians take phone calls more seriously than letters (because they get more of them), I decided to go ahead and send an email to Toomey’s office. It’s probably slightly more coherent than my phone call would have been anyway, since I had a bit more time to gather my thoughts.
So here’s what I sent:
I’m writing to let you know that I get my health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. As a self-employed businessman living in Philadelphia, the ability to compare plans and sign up through HealthCare.gov over the past two years has been great.
Like many Americans, I did get hit with a premium increase this year, but I’m comfortable paying the new rates since I can afford them, and make too much money to qualify for subsidies… and understand that doing so helps make the system more equitable and accessible to many people who might not otherwise be able to afford health insurance.
I also understand that Republicans, at the urging of the president elect, are moving forward to repeal and replace the ACA. I think this is a mistake, but it’s probably going to happen anyway.
So as you move forward, I urge you to please take your time and make sure that whatever replacement plan is put in place keeps some of the best things about the ACA.
For example, the ACA includes a provision that prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. None of the proposed replacements I’ve seen include that protection, which means that many Americans who need insurance most would not be able to get it.
President-elect Trump has voiced support for that provision, along with one that ensures young people under the age of 26 who are living with their parents to be covered on their parents’ plans.
Medicaid expansion, subsidies for low-income families, and other efforts to make sure health care is available (and affordable) to all, are also important.
But most importantly, please do not move to quickly repeal the ACA until you are certain that *something* will replace it,. If you do, then tens of millions of Americans from all walks of life will suddenly find themselves without health insurance.
There is no rush. Take your time. If you’re going to do it, do it right and make sure that you don’t hurt the people you claim to be helping by repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.
Update: About a day later, I received a form letter in response. It’d be nice if Toomey’s staffers would at least edit it by deleting lines that seem irrelevant to the comments left by voters.
I’m not exactly surprised to get a form letter. It’s not like I expected a personal response. But I’d almost rather have a simple “thanks for sharing your opinions, I’ll be sure to keep them in mind” because this comes off as the Senator telling constituents why they’re wrong.
Here’s the text of the email, which I’ve verified is a form letter because it matches one sent to another Pennsylvania voter word-for-word.
Thank you for contacting my office about the president’s health care law. I appreciate hearing from you.
President Obama’s health care law is fundamentally wrong in its approach to improving our nation’s health care system. It forces people to buy overpriced health plans they do not want, hikes taxes, and puts important and personal health care decisions in the hands of politicians and bureaucrats instead of patients and their doctors. News of skyrocketing health insurance premium increases-32.5 percent on average in Pennsylvania-coupled with the fact that 40 percent of Pennsylvanians now live in areas with no health insurance competition, show just how Obamacare’s broken promises are hurting Pennsylvanians. For these reasons, I have voted for and continue to support the full repeal of the president’s health care law.
With the election of Donald Trump and Republicans in control of both Houses of Congress, there is a unique opportunity to repeal Obamacare and reform health care in a way that puts patients – not bureaucrats – first. I have proposed reforms of my own that will lower costs and improve quality care. My main goals include allowing individuals to buy insurance from anywhere in the United States, to end the unfair tax discrimination against those buying coverage in the individual market, and ending frivolous lawsuits that drive up medical costs for everyone. As Congress begins to debate health care reform, I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind.
Thank you again for your correspondence. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.
U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania