Hundreds discuss the future of Obamacare at community forum in SWVa.


Hundreds met to talk about the future of Obamacare at a community forum in Big Stone Gap, Wednesday night. They talked about issues including the impact of Obamacare on Medicare, rural health and black lung benefits.

Peggy Mathews is self-employed and battling breast cancer.

"If there's a replacement, it needs to be at least what we've got with the ACA," Mathews said. "With a repeal, I won't be able to get my mammogram for free, pap smear for free, any regular physicals."

That's the kind of care some experts worry is on the line, especially in rural areas like Southwest Virginia.

"Important protections that will help people who are over the age of 50, but not yet eligible for Medicare, women or people with a health history who may have a preexisting condition," Jim Dau, state director of Virginia AARP listed some of the most vulnerable groups.

"I'm distressed when I think of the potential damage that could be done," ETSU professor Dr. Robin Feierabend said.

But the Trump administration believes the ACA is already a disaster.

"The American people got sold on the Affordable Care Act," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said. "It's neither affordable nor accessible. They're losing coverage, premiums are spiking."

And Tennessee congressman Phil Roe agrees. He told us Republicans are working on a better replacement. And sent us this statement:

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"The Medicare program is facing insolvency by 2028, which if not addressed soon could result in tax increases or benefit cuts, but former President Obama and the Democrats took over $700 billion out of the Medicare program to pay for the ACA. I believe there is a better way. As a physician, I have been working tirelessly to repeal the ACA and replace it with patient-centered, market-based health care reforms. We should work together to shore up Medicare and preserve it for future generations. I'm confident we can achieve this without disrupting the lives of patients, something the ACA failed to do."

Speakers at the forum acknowledged Obamacare is not perfect. One major issue they want fixed, soaring drug prices.

"The cost of medical care was going up rapidly before the ACA was enacted; and unfortunately, the ACA did very little to slow that increase," Dr. Feierabend said.

"Having the U.S. be able to negotiate drug prices like every other government," Dau said.

So Mathews encourages people to understand all sides of the issue before supporting either a repeal or repair plan.

"This is the time," Mathews said. "They're thinking about changing the law, so it's time to get your voices heard."

Everyone at the forum was asked to write down their biggest concern. Organizers will give a list of all those concerns to local lawmakers.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, if Obamacare was repealed today, 29.8 million people would lose their health insurance across the U.S. In both Tennessee and Virginia, the number of people without insurance would jump by 79%.

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