Group aims to sway health care vote

ISAIAH makes presentation at Burnsville office

ISAIAH staff member Alexa Horwart talks with people who were at the Burnsville office of U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis for a presentation to advocate for a “no” vote on the American Health Care Act.  Photo by Tad Johnson
ISAIAH staff member Alexa Horwart talks with people who were at the Burnsville office of U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis for a presentation to advocate for a “no” vote on the American Health Care Act.
Photo by Tad Johnson

With a U.S. House vote slated Thursday for the American Health Care Act, a group of 2nd District faith leaders went to the Burnsville office of U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis on Tuesday in an attempt to present information to the representative and ask him to reconsider his support of the bill.

Lewis, a Republican, voted in favor of the bill during a Budget Committee markup last week.

“I’m proud to be keeping my promise to start real health care reform,” Lewis said in a news release. “The American Health Care Act is about lowering premiums, giving universal access to quality care, and letting the patient choose a plan that works, not the plan government thinks they should have. I look forward to continuing to work for all the Minnesotans who have been hit so hard by Obamacare.”

The presentation in Lewis’ office to a staff member was organized by ISAIAH, a coalition of congregations whose goal is to work for racial and economic justice in Minnesota.

About 25 people packed into the front room of the office to share the stories of people they say would be affected by a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with AHCA.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the replacement bill would leave 14 million Americans without health insurance.

The group said that more than 40,000 people in the 2nd District would no longer have health insurance under the new bill. They brought strips of paper with 20,000 human figures on them to represent that number.

One woman said they would have brought more, but they didn’t have time.

The group told the stories of people who didn’t have health insurance prior to the enactment of ACA, saying the law helped save lives.

“People of faith have a divine call to care for and protect people,” ISAIAH said in a press release. “This new plan is a direct violation of this call as the AHCA proposes to divest from social safety nets, like Medicare, created to protect and care for ‘the least of these’ and most vulnerable in community – babies, elderly, poor, and disabled – and reinvest the funds into the pockets of the wealthy. Several reports have been released describing the devastation on those who would be impacted by this new bill. Faith leaders pray that Congressman Lewis will have the strength and moral courage to make the right decisions for his constituents.”

In addition to prayer, the group sang several songs during the presentation in Lewis’ office.

The staff member said she would pass along the information and notes from the meeting to Lewis. She allowed the group to complete its entire presentation, which lasted more than an hour.

“Will this change his mind?” ISAIAH staff member Alexa Horwart said. “I don’t know.”

The AHCA would replace the ACA, which was passed while President Barack Obama was in office to require people to have health insurance or pay a penalty. The law created individual insurance exchanges throughout the country that were administered by states or the federal government. It also expanded Medicare to include more people under its coverage.

Lewis wrote in a March 10 editorial that the AHCA would ensure choice, portability and a safety net.

He said the bill would eliminate expensive mandates and allow “consumers to choose the insurance that works best for them.”

Lewis said the GOP plan would “offer a refundable tax credit that anyone can use to buy the plan that’s right for them anywhere in the country — and not just on a government exchange. As folks grow older, the tax credit increases, allowing the plan of their choice to travel with them from job to job or in retirement. Not only that, but our plan seeks to increase tax-deferred Health Savings Accounts to help cover deductibles and even over-the-counter items, further leveling the playing field.”

He said the plan protects patients with pre-existing conditions and maintains the ability of dependents up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance.

“At the same time, it removes price controls from the market, allowing the young and healthy to once again afford insurance,” he said. “Further, to help each state find the right solutions, our plan offers states innovation funds so that they can better meet their distinct health care needs.”

He said the plan also seeks to modernize Medicaid for able-bodied adults while ensuring access for the most vulnerable.

Contact Tad Johnson at [email protected] or at twitter.com/editorTJ.