North Carolina lawmakers continued their debate over the controversial overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system this week.
The Joint Study Committee on the Affordable Care Act and Implementation Issues held its first meeting in Raleigh on Tuesday. The committee was created in January by Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Term Phil Berger.
The first meeting consisted of a series of presentations by experts, beginning with Duke University professor Chris Conover, a conservative health economist and noted critic of President Barack Obama and the Affordable Care Act. During his presentation, Conover discussed the financial devastation the Affordable Care Act will create not only for the state, but also for the country. He predicted that it would cost North Carolina’s economy the equivalent of 90,000 full-time jobs and could potentially lead to worse healthcare outcomes for low-income populations.
“The responses among the committee was mostly split along party lines,” local Republican Senator David Curtis, co-chairman of the committee, said. “The Republicans accepted what the experts said, and the Democrats challenged it, stating that we should have had a more balanced group of speakers, that we should have had some folks who supported the Affordable Care Act. We thought that was a good thing, and we agreed to bring supporters to speak at our next committee meeting.”
Curtis explained that the political divide on the controversial issue at hand was not unexpected.
“At every level, the Republicans oppose it and think it’s a really bad thing,” Curtis said. “The Democrats pretty much have to support it. They know it is Obama’s signature legislation, so they would have to either break away from the president or support Obamacare. That’s the only two choices they have.”
Prior to the legislative hearing, Democrat committee members held a short press conference Tuesday morning, allowing citizens to speak about the beneficial impacts they have experienced through the creation of the Affordable Care Act. Some stated that before the Affordable Care Act went into effect, they had been unable to afford healthcare.
Despite the controversial opinions, Curtis believes the meeting overall was very productive.
“I felt the meeting was pretty productive, because we heard several anecdotal stories about how it’s a bad thing for the economy and people’s hours are being cut back and how it’s going to cost all these jobs in North Carolina,” he said. “The experts we had speaking fleshed that out and gave us the real numbers about what the projection was for how many jobs were expected to be lost. It quantified some of the concerns we’ve had with Obamacare. So, from that perspective, it was pretty productive, I think.”
According to Curtis, the speakers stated that the Affordable Care Act will hurt four people for every one person it helped.
The Joint Study Committee on the Affordable Care Act and Implementation Issues is scheduled to meet again on April 22 at University of North Carolina — Greensboro’s campus.