Tompkins County legislators unanimously called on the county’s representatives in Congress to oppose any bill repealing the Affordable Care Act unless it is replaced by a similar alternative for the estimated 20 million people who could lose insurance otherwise.
Dozens of people packed the Legislative Chambers in downtown Ithaca, all of them speaking in favor of the resolution, which was introduced by Anna Kelles (D-N.Y.). When the resolution passed unanimously, applause erupted from the folding chairs alongside the legislators.
Kelles said she was proud of the community for coming out in such numbers and impressed by the amount of research county residents had done to make their case for her resolution. She added that the Affordable Care Act is “now more popular in the country that it has ever been since it was enacted,” citing a national poll.
County resident Ellen Walsh said the landmark healthcare law had saved her sister’s life when she required a series of operations and was able to stay on her parents’ insurance plan thanks to the provision in the Affordable Care Act that allows children to stay on their parents plan until they turn 26.
“She’s alive today because of Obamacare,” Walsh said. “I just want to make that very clear.”
Legislator Mike Sigler (R-N.Y.) spoke out against what he called an unsustainable health insurance law, raising the suspense in the room that the vote may not be unanimous.
“The main problem I have with the ACA is, it simply isn’t solid,” Sigler said. “The Republicans aren’t going to kill it, it’s going to die.”
“You talk to small business owners, and they don’t understand what’s going on,” he continued. “They don’t know how to pay for this.”
Ultimately, however, Sigler said the provision forbidding insurers from denying coverage based on a pre-existing condition convinced him to vote for the resolution.
“There are people out there that have a pre-existing condition that can’t get insurance if [the Affordable Care Act] goes away and that’s why I’m going to vote for this bill,” Sigler said, to sighs of relief from several Democratic legislators. “I can’t just let those people go without insurance.”
The resolution calls on State Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to vote against any repeal of the Affordable Care Act “unless and until it is replaced by a nationwide single-payer health insurance program or another alternative with commensurate protections for the public.”
Copies of the resolution will be sent to Reed, Schumer, Gillibrand, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and President Donald Trump. Trump has nominated Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to fill the secretary position.
County Legislator Jim Dennis (D-N.Y.) said the Affordable Care Act has been flawed from the start and needs repair, an effort which he said had been hindered by Republicans wanting to kill the plan. He said repealing the law would be a “sin” for the country.
“Frankly, I don’t care if they want to call it Ryancare, Trumpcare, whatever — it needs to get fixed,” Dennis said, referring to Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (R-W.I.), speaker of the House of Representatives, and President Trump.
“We, as legislators … need to stand up and say that’s what needs to get done, because we can’t really move ahead and 18 to 20 million people can’t lose healthcare,” he said. “We’ve done many wonderful things in the United States of America. They should be able to fix healthcare if people really want to get together and do that.”