Congress is out of session, and while back in their respective states, they’re hosting town hall meetings.
Town hall meetings are a great mechanism of democracies because they allow Congressmen and Senators to interact with, help, and address the concerns of their constituents.
However, they do not like it so much when those constituents are upset.
The fact of the matter is: Politics and government affects our lives every day in every way, so constituents—conservative and liberal—have every right to protest and be frustrated when policies concern them.
Because a Congressman or Senator does not like what these constituents—and voters—are saying, they are not granted the right to disregard the concerns as “paid protestors,” organized and funded by some rich liberal with apparently unlimited resources.
(I have been one of these protestors before—I am still waiting for my check.)
Nevertheless, one of the numerous reasons these constituents are showing up to town halls is over concerns of the future of American healthcare.
Republicans have been like a dog chasing a car for the past seven years: They have chased this notion of death panels “killing grandma” and the downfall of American society because of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), none of which ever came to fruition. But now, they have caught the car and do not have any concrete plans on what to do with it.
Last Thursday, the GOP leadership sent Republicans home with talking points on the yet-to-be Republican replacement plan. Here is the reality behind two of the main talking points you will hear.:
Health Care Tax Credits, according to the talking points memo, could be refundable, non-refundable, or advanceable. These credits would either work like traditional tax credits or be issued in advanced to cover healthcare premiums. There is a catch.
These tax credits could be $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families, universally applied and adjusted according to age, not income. Currently, subsidies are adjusted according to income under the Affordable Care Act.
This universal application based on age instead of income would work phenomenally for billionaire investor Warren Buffet and would be devastating for any secretary in the offices of his many businesses.
Our own Senator, Bill Cassidy, has been a staunch advocate for health savings accounts (HAS), which are tax-free accounts whose funds can exclusively be used for healthcare expenses.
But, this only works for those who can afford to set aside thousands of dollars into a savings account every year for healthcare expenses, and assuming a family could set aside five thousand into an account, the family runs into a huge problem once the healthcare costs exceeds that amount.
For further context on that, 63 percent of Americans would not be able to cover an unexpected expense of $500, according to CBS News; therefore, I am unsure how the average American will be able to sufficiently cover their healthcare costs by this plan.
Yes, I understand that The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (again, Obamacare) is a flawed bill in need of further reform—and we have known this ever since it was passed. However, right now, people are protesting because Republicans have not produced a uniform and comprehensive replacement plan yet.
People are rightfully anxious about their healthcare. The currently proposals, from the little we know, would raise annual premiums for older Americans by as little as $2,000, according to the RAND Corporation, and as much as $6,000, according to the Center for American Progress.
Republicans owe it to their constituents—us—to start taking our concerns about healthcare seriously, instead of writing people off as “paid protestors.”
Nick Smith is the Chair of the Jackson Parish Democratic Party.