House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett — in Austin on Thursday to tour Dell Seton Medical Center’s new teaching hospital and to rally supporters of the Affordable Care Act — described access to quality medical care as essential to the American Dream as they met with representatives of the city’s high-tech and music industries.
“One of our goals (in creating the act) was we wanted people to reach their fulfillment,” Pelosi said during a round-table discussion with advocates for the Affordable Care Act that included members of the local medical sector. “If you’re a writer, a painter, a musician or a cameraman, you can reach that” if health care is accessible.
She and Doggett, D-Austin, listened to numerous examples from participants in Thursday’s event who backed up the contention.
The Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — is former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislation. Last month, House Republicans failed to pass their own plan to repeal the act, despite more than seven years of vowing to do so, but President Donald Trump and the GOP have said they’re still committed to scrapping it.
Tate Mayeux, a 28-year-old self-employed musician from Leander, told Pelosi that he purchased a plan through the act after suffering a serious medical problem that caused him to cancel a tour in France. He said he has used it to access care for a variety of medical conditions since then, and he called it a life saver.
In addition, “I got my first pair of glasses in 13 years, so I can see clearly now,” Mayeux said. “It’s probably a good thing, with as much driving as I do.”
Barbary Brunner, chief executive of the Austin Technology Council, said the Affordable Care Act has provided many members of her organization with the peace of mind to pursue dreams of starting their own companies.
“For my community, my entrepreneurs, the importance is the freedom — the freedom not to worry about pre-existing conditions,” Brunner said. “Being able to leave your corporate job at 55 and pursue your dream” because health care is accessible is huge for budding entrepreneurs.
Still, Pelosi and Doggett made clear that the future of the Affordable Care Act remains uncertain. The pair urged supporters to continue voicing support for the act and educating others about its benefits.
“This is a really important time in the Affordable Care Act’s life,” Doggett said. “Many millions of people will lose access to health care” if the health care act is repealed.
As things stand, neither Doggett nor Pelosi said they see much room to negotiate with Trump over ways to improve access to health care as long as he is bent on repealing the Affordable Care Act.
U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, who didn’t attend Thursday’s event but responded afterward, said he’s happy to see Pelosi and Doggett “take ownership of the failure of Obamacare” as House Republicans work to devise “a patient-focused” plan he said will be better. Carter said he’s been meeting with numerous constituents as well, and “over and over I hear how much they want to see the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.”
Deane Waldman, director of the Center for Health Care Policy at the conservative-leaning Texas Public Policy Foundation, said Pelosi, Doggett and other supporters of the Affordable Care Act are “are living in La La land” if they think it is helping people achieve the American Dream. Among other things, he said, the act has added bureaucracy that has driven up costs, increased the amount of time patients must wait to see doctors and decreased actual access to care despite spurring a rise in the number of insured.