The Gaston County Courthouse was packed Friday morning as the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee listened to local testimonies regarding the impact the Affordable Care Act has made on North Carolinians. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., led the discussion for “Obamacare Implementation: Sticker Shock of Increased Premiums for Health Care Coverage,” along with North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry and Rep. Robert Pittenger.
Staffers for Rep. Issa had selected the witnesses prior to the two-hour hearing. Witnesses included Dan Waters, president of Dan Waters & Associates, a Hickory insurance agency, Joel Long, president of GSM Services, a commercial roofing and HVAC company in Gastonia, Tav Gauss, CEO of Action Group Human Resources Solutions, a staffing firm with multiple offices statewide, Sherry Overby, director of the Belmont Crisis Pregnancy Center and Jason Falls, owner of Falls Insurance in Kings Mountain. The lack of an open forum caused a few public attendees to interrupt at the start of the proceedings, arguing that if their tax dollars were being used to host this meeting, they should be allowed to speak.
During the hearing, Overby stated that the health care act was full of deceptive measures.
“It has never been about health care; it’s about control,” Overby said. “We now have fewer choices than we’ve ever had. It should be called the Unaffordable Health Care Act.”
The new health care law requires nearly everyone to buy health insurance or pay a fine. Supporters of the law state the goal is to provide affordable insurance for more Americans by offering federal premium subsidies for those who qualify.
However, there are some who feel it is unfair for health insurance recipients to lose their original coverage plan.
“We don’t want to be forced into something we don’t want to buy,” Overby said. “We live in a capitalist society, not a socialist society.”
“Why can’t we keep our current plans?” Waters said. “What about these benefits that I will never use?”
“It’s absurd that I have maternity care at my age,” Overby said. “I’m not able to have kids anymore.”
McHenry stressed the importance of competitiveness in the health insurance industry during the hearing, stating that North Carolina’s health care should be “competitive across state lines.”
“The Affordable Care Act is dampening our growth,” Long said. “We need to grow out privately to increase our tax base.”
He also noted that there is much confusion over the pricing and quality of health insurance offerings.
“We, as businesses, cannot operate on unknowns.”
For Falls, the lack of questions regarding medical history on the Affordable Care Act application was disturbing.
“There are no health questions on that application, except for smoking and pregnancy,” Falls said. “Everything is based on income now.”
McHenry stresses that the health care situation is truly a bipartisan issue.
“What we want is greater coverage and care at a lower price,” McHenry said. “They aren’t Republican or Democrat increases. They’re debts American families are attempting to bear.”
This is the first of a series of hearings that will be held across the country.