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Visclosky discusses Affordable Care Act at Chesterton town meeting

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By KEVIN NEVERS

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, has admitted he was “wrong”--but stopped short of offering an apology as President Obama did--when he said that folks who liked their health insurance could keep it under the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA).

Visclosky made that concession at his annual Chesterton town meeting, held on Jan. 4 at the Library Service Center.

Visclosky did not address the ACA in his opening remarks but the first question in the Q/A--submitted by an attendee on a card--put the issue this way, more or less: When President Obama “misspoke” about people’s being able to keep their insurance if they liked it, did he do so out of “incompetence” or because he hadn’t read the actual bill?

Visclosky began by stating that the ACA, which actually went into effect in 2010, was designed to solve “a significant number of problems with the system” and it’s done just that. Children and others may no longer be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, for example. And the ACA has brought “some equity” to a system which had been characterized by “great disparity and discrimination,” in which--he said--38 percent of women were previously denied coverage, “just flat out turned down.”

But, Visclosky acknowledged, “certainly” some people who secured health insurance in the open market have seen their policies canceled by “companies that did not want to subscribe to services required under the ACA.” And “I was wrong” in statements previously made about the possibility of such cancellations, in particular, Visclosky noted, in a statement made to union members.

“Some people have been canceled,” he said. “A minority of Americans. But it has happened.”

Even so, Visclosky remarked, over any two-year period, only 17 percent of policy holders in the open market keep the same policy unchanged.

In general, Visclosky expressed the hope that “people of both ideological persuasions at the extreme calm down.” The ACA is “not perfect, it’s overly complex,” and “we need to get rid of the complexity and fix some of the unintended problems.” But opponents of the law should accept the fact that President Obama won’t repeal it and the U.S. Supreme Court will not find it unconstitutional. They should also accept the fact that President Obama ran for re-election on the ACA platform and won.

Visclosky did take a moment to dispel one misimpression: namely, the notion that Congress exempted itself from the ACA. Congress did not exempt itself. On the contrary, members of Congress were the “only people expressly prohibited from maintaining their health insurance,” were in fact “forced to go to the exchanges.”

Other issues:

* The budget deal: It was a “positive but temporary step, a tiny step,” and for that reason Visclosky said he voted against it. More to the point, Republicans continue to refuse to consider new taxes or tax hikes, whereas Visclosky said that both spending and taxes need to be on the table. “Everybody needs to pay some of the freight.”

* Immigration: In the past Visclosky voted against amnesty for illegal aliens and the so-called Dream Act, favoring instead a “comprehensive approach” to immigration. He “fully” supports the hiring of additional immigration officers because “we need to know who’s coming into this country and why.” He also lamented “unscrupulous employers who pay illegal aliens as little as possible and drive all wages down.” Finally, Visclosky said that it would be “unfair” to let illegal aliens go to the front of the line when so many legal aliens are working hard to become U.S. citizens.

* Gun control: Visclosky voted for the 10-year ban on semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines which was enacted in the 1990s and has since expired. He also voted for the Brady Bill, which provides for background checks. Visclosky said that he supports closing a “huge loophole” in the Brady Bill for gun shows.

Chesterton Middle School eighth-grader Molly McLaughlin led attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the event.

 

 

Posted 1/9/2014