U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran [D-District 1] said he finds it hard to believe Republicans in the federal government will be able to find a good replacement for the Affordable Care Act — commonly known as Obamacare — any time soon.
“There’s no agreement [among Republicans] on the ACA,” O’Halleran said at a roundtable discussion on rural health care and senior prescription drug programs Jan. 18 at the Verde Valley Senior Center in Cottonwood.
O’Halleran, a Democrat, was elected in November to represent Arizona’s 1st congressional district. He replaced U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick [District 1], who declined to seek reelection in favor of a failed attempt to take Sen. John McCain’s seat in the U.S. Senate.
O’Halleran said his time in the House has already been a learning experience when it comes to how the federal government, particularly incoming lawmakers, deals with health care.
The common perception that the ACA is unpopular among conservatives is incorrect, according to O’Halleran.
“There are certain portions of the ACA that are almost universally approved of,” O’Halleran said, naming provisions that have made it easier for people with pre-existing conditions to get health insurance as the most popular. “If we’re going to repeal [the ACA] — and I think there’s no way politically they can’t repeal .... My No. 1 rule is it has to be better than what we have today.
“The ACA is not perfect. It needs to be worked on.”
According to O’Halleran, Republicans and Democrats have a responsibility to constructively debate the ACA and provide solutions to health care problems that exist, particularly for seniors, children and veterans.
“The fault lies with Congress and other leaders that we’re in this situation,” O’Halleran said of the contentious issue of how the federal government mandates health insurance. “Bottom line is, we have to find a way to work together .... That’s how we need to start thinking about these issues, as fellow Americans.”
Though admitting its perceived faults, O’Halleran praised the ACA for cutting health care spending by 2019 by $2 trillion, compared to predictions prior to the ACA’s passage into law.
“My supplementary health care hasn’t gone up in three years,” O’Halleran said.
Despite the successes, O’Halleran added that the prevalence of uncared-for senior citizens across the nation remains a major issue and rejected the notion that Medicare is an entitlement. Instead, O’Halleran said that paying into Medicare constitutes a pact on the federal government’s part to provide health care options to people 65 and over.