Locals react to intensifying battle over the future of health care

Locals react to intensifying capitol hill battle over the future of health care reform

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - As Republicans and Democrats suit up for an all-out battle on Capitol Hill over the future of the Affordable Care Act, hundreds of thousands in Louisiana have a vested interest in the ultimate outcome.

"It helps me out a lot, it just makes it more affordable. I still pay a significant amount, but the subsidies help," said Jessi Vojt, who has insurance afforded through the federal health care reform law.

The incoming president, Donald Trump, vows he will repeal President Barack Obama's signature piece of legislation and replace it. The Republican-controlled Congress has his back.

"We're going to work hard every day not just to repeal Obamacare, but to replace it with reforms that actually put patients back in charge of their healthcare decisions, that actually focus on lowering costs and increasing access to healthcare," said House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Metairie.

There were dueling meetings on Capitol Hill Wednesday as President Obama met with Democrats to urge they fight hard to save the law, and Republicans met with Vice President-Elect Mike Pence on their plan to repeal it.

. Scalise attended a press conference afterward, where Republicans said replacing the law is a top priority.

"In my state of Louisiana over 25 percent increases that families are paying and higher costs for health care because of those broken promises of this law," Scalise said.

Vojt tuned in to a podcast on insurance as she walked along Esplanade Avenue Wednesday afternoon. She is concerned she could be adversely impacted by the planned dismantling of the current law.

"If the marketplace were to go back to higher rates, or not covering people with pre-existing conditions, yeah, it would," Vojt.

Michael Griffin, CEO of Daughters of Charity of Services of New Orleans, sees firsthand the impact of the law on the previously uninsured.

"Medical care, dental care, mental health, behavioral health, all of that has increased in our facilities," he said.

"Are there ways that it needs to be better? Yes. Are there things that we need to change to strengthen it, to improve it? Yes. So let's work together to make that happen," said Susan Todd, executive director of 504 HealthNet.

Still there are concerns that there could be a gap in coverage between a repeal of the ACA and the law's replacement.

"I truly think there's going to be some opportunities for coverage to be bridged and for there not to be the gap, but if there is it could be catastrophic 550,000 people who have enrolled both in the marketplace and in Medicaid," said Griffin.

"It is a concern but I'm hopeful. I'm trying to keep hope that people who we have elected, who we have entrusted to take care of our most vulnerable citizens and residents in this community, that they will recognize that, that is most important and put that first," said Todd.

Health care providers and health care advocates say it is a huge benefit to have more of the population have access to early healthcare than not.

"The reality is people who are uninsured they delay care, they get sicker, they're not able to go to work," said Todd.

"Primary care and prevention really reduces costs long-term," Griffin stated.

Todd urges beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act to continue to pay their premiums and to let their congressmen know the importance of retaining coverage, without any interruption. She said Jan. 31 is the final day to enroll for this period.

Republicans said their plans aim to help Americans, not hurt them.

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