Officials of the Hamilton County Democratic Party said Friday they are concerned about the ramifications of new Republican healthcare bill for Tennesseans and the "lack of availability, accountability, and transparency" from Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.
The Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill in two weeks. No public town halls on healthcare have been held in Hamilton County, it was stated.
Speakers included Representative Joanne Favors; Khristy Wilkinson, Hamilton County Democratic Chair; and Hamilton County resident Rachel Beardsley Campbell. Each discussed "the direct, positive impact of Obamacare on their lives and the potentially devastating implications of the Republican healthcare plan, or AHCA, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, and the decisions that will be made by the Tennessee legislature if the bill passes the Senate."
They said up to 637,000 Tennesseans could lose access to health insurance under the plan passed by the House.
Rep. Favors, a former registered nurse and healthcare administrator who spent at least 50 years in the healthcare industry prior to serving Tennessee’s 28th legislative district, called the Affordable Care Act an “excellent plan” and expressed concern that a political party would “spend seven years trying to repeal an act that provided so much for so many people.” Rep. Favors highlighted the role that the Republican Tennessee legislature has had in "obstructing healthcare reform" in Tennessee, a state she said has some of the “sickest, poorest people in the nation.”
“We really need to come together, not look at this as a partisan issue, but understand that some of the changes that are being recommended, and understand that it’s not transparent. We can’t even respond effectively because we don’t know what is being proposed.” said Rep. Favors.
Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Wilkinson spoke about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act on women, children, and families including enhanced access to maternity care, newborn care, breastfeeding support, routine check-ups and immunizations and increased resources for at-risk mothers and their young children.
She said, "The only acceptable replacement for Obamacare is a plan that increases access to affordable healthcare for every American, for every Tennessean, and for every resident of Hamilton County. As Democrats, we accept nothing short of better, more comprehensive, and more accessible health care for Tennessee. If we aren't willing to spend our tax dollars on caring for our neighbors, then why are we we okay with spending them to fill the pockets of giant insurance and pharmaceutical corporations? It just doesn't make sense."
She said the AHCA will allow states to grant waivers to insurers to allow them to charge more for people with pre-existing conditions. States would also be able to grant waivers to exempt insurers from providing the 10 minimum essential benefits, which includes coverage for substance abuse treatment programs. “Repealing protections for patients with pre-existing conditions is one of the most unnerving aspects of the new healthcare plan”, said Ms. Wilkinson. “This has the potential to make it very difficult for working families to access the care they need to live decent lives.”
Ms. Campbell, a Hamilton County resident with pre-existing conditions as a result of drinking contaminated water, said she would be directly impacted by the repeal of the ACA. “I am grateful for Obamacare, it saved my life,” she said. “Our representatives need to know that we expect and we demand that they listen to us. We demand that they understand that the ACA is not a political football. It is, quite literally, people’s lives at stake here. Show us the bill," she said. She also said she is “heartbroken and terrified” that repealing the ACA will leave her 17-year-old with no healthcare as she leaves for college this fall.
The group said Senators Alexander and Corker "have not held any town hall meetings or public forums on the healthcare bill to hear from Tennesseans. In 2009, Senator Corker held numerous town hall meetings on the Affordable Care Act and said that America had been 'awakened' by them, which he called 'a great thing.' Now that his party has control, he is nowhere to be found. The Hamilton County Democratic Party insists that our Congressional and Senate delegation meet with their Hamilton County constituents, all of them, to discuss the new healthcare plan and its impact on our community."
Here is the video footage from Friday's press conference.