Arizona Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain fielded questions and comments — both positive and negative in nature — about the Affordable Care Act and addressed other issues at a town hall event in Mesa on Nov. 25.
At Waxie Sanitary Supply, Arizona’s two Republican senators responded to questions about the controversial act, also known as Obamacare, and particularly the launch of the HealthCare.gov website, which has been plagued with glitches since its launch in October.
“We believe it’s very likely this (ACA) will fail,” McCain said.
One of the main issues with the site is a lack of enrollment through the website, an issue that has expanded to Arizona as well. According to Department of Health and Human Services, 739 Arizonans have signed up for health care using the HealthCare.gov website.
The issue with the legislation, McCain said, is the necessity for younger people to enroll in the system to compensate for the costs related to care for older Americans, which he called “social engineering.” Although McCain said a key detriment of the insurance system prior to the Affordable Care Act’s enactment was a lack of access to insurance for all Americans, the need to fall back on younger people does not fix a problem that Flake said could become more serious within the next 12 months.
“They’ll have an idea of whose going to purchase ObamaCare, and it’s not healthy 28 year olds,” Flake said. “If we think we’ve seen the worst of it, we haven’t.”
The problem he cited is the start of the requirement for businesses that employ 50 people or more to offer insurance beginning in 2015. A possible ramification Flake said could occur is a continued increase in premiums, which McCain said are already increasing well beyond the rate of inflation.
A few recommendations and remedies offered by the senators was to hold hearings to figure out what the problems are with the current system to fix the issues, allow people to seek insurance plans beyond state borders, a stronger dependency on the free market and a focus on reducing the costs of pharmaceuticals, which McCain said are too expensive. Flake showed support for the plan offered by McCain during his presidential run in 2008, which included tax credits to individuals and families to purchase insurance on the open market and the elimination of tax exemptions for employer-provided plans, among other aspects.
Although both advocated for changes to the Affordable Care Act legislation, McCain chastised House Republicans for their attempt to shutdown the government to repeal the act, which McCain said “was a fool’s errand and stupid and still makes me angry.”
Responses from the audience about the legislation were mixed, with some members saying the legislation has been detrimental to their businesses and personal lives and with others voicing support for it. One man said businesses that sell medical devices are facing problems due to the 2.7 percent tax on those products. The implementation of that portion of the act is on hiatus, but the audience member said the stasis has put a freeze on his industry’s ability to sell its products to doctors and consumers.
Conversely though was a woman who said her husband’s business actually saw its employees’ premiums decrease by 4 percent over the past year, and another audience member said his brother enrolled through the HealthCare.gov website and saw his rates go down as well.
“There will be people who find it (insurance) cheaper … but the vast majority will see it increase significantly,” Flake said in response.
Monday’s town hall event covered additional national and international topics that included the recent deal with Iran concerning its nuclear program, with Iran agreeing to limit its program in exchange for the easement of sanctions against it by the United States and five other countries.
Although some politicians have lauded the temporary agreement, McCain said the deal does not do enough to curb Iran’s program – he said the country, which cannot build more centrifuges under the terms of the agreement, can continue to use the centrifuges it has – and added the country’s history of supporting terrorists and agitating against Israel makes it difficult to ensure the deal will hold up.
“This agreement, in my view, has more holes in it than a piece of Swiss cheese,” McCain said.
Other issues mentioned included the recent rule changes with the filibuster – Flake and McCain both had concerns the decision will lead to more philosophically extremist judicial appointees from both sides of the aisle – the country’s impending status as a net exporter of energy and immigration. The two hosted a separate town hall in Mesa devoted to the latter most issue in August.
The Mesa Chamber of Commerce and East Valley Chambers of Commerce Alliance organized the event.
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