Health-care reform creates divisive debate

by Sarah Fay Campbell

(Editor's note: The Newnan Times-Herald today continues its series on the Affordable Care Act and options for the uninsured and businesses. Today's installment focuses on political opinion about the new federal law.)

It's been one of the most divisive issues of the past few decades. It's been debated, litigated, anticipated, deprecated and dreaded. It's been affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court and survived multiple congressional challenges. And now there's a federal government shutdown as part of a desperate, last-ditch effort to stop it.

It's the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Also known as 'healthcare reform' during the debate that led to the bill's passage in 2010.

Obamacare is also a partisan issue. Democrats tend to favor the bill and decry the actions of Republicans who are trying to stop it from taking effect.

Republicans vehemently oppose the bill, and Congressional Republicans have voted more than 40 times to repeal the law. Local Republicans support the government shutdown as a last ditch attempt to stop Obamacare.

'Our local party members are very excited that the Republicans are taking a stand in Congress,' said Brant Frost V, chairman of the Coweta County Republican Party.

He feels the current partial federal government shutdown is 'an investment.'

'The costs of Obamacare are so momentous' and the longterm effects could be devastating, he said. 'If we have to go for a week without the federal government in order to get this straightened out, it is well worth it,' he said.

Since the federal employees who are being furloughed now will almost certainly get back pay, 'they're essentially getting a paid vacation,' Frost said.

'My thought is the longer the shutdown lasts, the more likely the president and the Democrats are going to lose,' Frost added.

Morris Steward, chairman of the Coweta County Democrats, has a very different opinion.

'We have a democracy and we have rules that make that democracy work. And if we choose not to follow the rules of democracy then we are no better than any other country that doesn't follow the rule of law,' Steward said. 'It is a law that has been vetted by the Supreme Court. It's in place. It's there and there are ways to modify it, to make changes to it, to improve it or to repeal it, if the need be. But there is a process - and holding up the funding of the government is not the way to do it.'

Republicans have tried to repeal Obamacare so many times, and have yet to succeed. 'It's like - it's over, you lost. You did not win the election, the president was reelected overwhelmingly' and Obamacare was 'one of the key issues of the last presidential campaign,' Steward said.

'You can't change the rules after the game is over so that you can win something,' Steward said. 'That is where I am, and I think a lot of other people are, too.'

The government shutdown is not what House Republicans wanted, said Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga. Third District and a Coweta resident. 'We have passed four full appropriations bills. We have also passed five separate continuing resolutions that would have responsibly funded the government while protecting the American people from the harmful impacts of Obamacare, and would have removed subsidies for members (of Congress) and staff for their health care plans,' he said.

'Unfortunately, Senate Democrats have rejected all our attempts to keep the government up and running, refusing to even debate and vote on the two most recent continuing resolutions we have sent to them. On top of that, we sent them legislation that would allow the two chambers to hold a conference to negotiate, but they once again refused to even debate the bill.'

The House had passed five 'mini continuing resolutions' to fund portions of the government during the shutdown by late Friday, and was expected to approve two more. They included resolutions to reopen national parks and museums, to allow the District of Columbia to use its own revenue to complete day-to-day operations, to fund cancer research and to assure veterans receive benefits.

The Senate has 'refused to negotiate or take up any of the House's other CR bills in the meantime,' said Leigh Claffey, Westmoreland's deputy press secretary.

President Obama has vowed he will veto any resolutions.

'If Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, is really as terrible as they portray it to be, some say why don't you just let it go forward and it will self-destruct?' asked Coweta County Commissioner Al Smith, Coweta's only elected Democrat. 'Why do you keep telling me how bad it is when it hasn't even gotten off the ground yet?'

'If the law is terrible and you can show that it is terrible, then you need to win the White House and change it or you need to win the Senate and change it,' Smith added. 'It's weakness on their part, because it is already law. This stunt they are pulling to try to tie the funding of the government to the fact that they can't repeal this law is adolescent behavior.'

'This is unprecedented and it's really wrong,' Smith said.

'This has nothing to do with the budget, it has nothing to do with Affordable Care… it has nothing to do with that,' said former Coweta County commissioner Robert Wood, a Democrat. 'What it has to do with is Obama,' he said. 'These people have done everything they could' to try and stop Obama. 'The Republican party who liberated us from slavery has allowed itself to become infected with a disease called tea partyism.'

'I don't believe this is the Republican party of Abraham Lincoln … I don't believe this is the Republican party of Ronald Reagan,' Wood added.

Republicans want big government 'when it comes to telling people about having babies' and 'telling same-sex couples what kind of relationships they can have,' Wood said. 'But then they don't want to legislate giv- ing citizens health care.'

'It baffles me that we are doing this thing the way we are doing it,' Wood said. 'This stuff could have been worked out over time.'

Coweta County Commission Chairman Bob Blackburn, a Republican, feels that Obamacare is an 'unsound bill.'

'I think you only have to look to the U.K. and Canada to see that the system doesn't provide near the quality of health care as the U.S. system,' Blackburn said. He foresees people having to wait for care, and the rationing of care.

'I think it is going to be a really horrible mistake.'

He recognizes that there is a problem with the U.S. healthcare system.

'The pricing is just out of this world. Premiums are crazy. I don't know where to point the finger, whether it is the doctors or insurance companies or the hospitals or the trial attorneys that are suing. It's over my head as to where the fault lies,' Blackburn said.

He wants to see Republicans hold their ground in Congress 'until there is some give, or at least a delay.'

He says it's odd that President Obama is 'willing to negotiate and talk with foreign countries like Iran but he is not willing to budge in talking to Republican members of Congress.'

'I still think Obamacare is leading to socialism, and it will be the demise of our medical system,' said Blackburn.

It's so bad that it needs to never go into effect, according to Frost - because once it does, it will never end. 'Probably, with Obamacare, some people will benefit,' he said. But that will mean that 'people are going to get accustomed to it and the problems we see with it are not going to go away just because people don't like it.'

Most everyone agrees Social Security and Medicare have major problems, yet they never get changed. 'Any time something like this gets put in place, there will become an interest group that will coalesce around it and hire lobbyists,' Frost said.

'As President Reagan said, a government program is the closest thing to eternal life you'll ever see on this Earth.'

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