Congressional health care hearing a sham, opponents say
Posted November 22, 2013
Updated November 23, 2013
GASTONIA, N.C. — A congressional committee hearing about the Affordable Care Act drew a crowd both inside and outside the Gaston County Commission chambers Friday morning, but only two committee members attended the meeting decried by some as a political stunt.
California Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, an outspoken critic of the law, led the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing to examine its implementation in North Carolina and how it has affected insurance premiums. There are dozens of other members on the committee, but North Carolina 10th District Congressman Patrick McHenry was the only other one there.
"We're not here today to question the act or its validity," Issa said. "What we are today is to review what's happening in light of its roll-out."
No Democratic members attended, and no advocates for the Affordable Care Act were invited to testify. Issa said that's because Democratic committee members did not request any such witnesses.
The five witnesses who testified included insurance agents and business owners who oppose the law, saying it is confusing and too expensive.
Sherry Overbey of Belmont said her monthly premiums will skyrocket from $396 to $713 in 2014, with higher deductibles. She is among the millions nationwide whose policies were canceled because the law considers them substandard.
Overbey said the president has been deceptive.
"No matter what nicety you give it, a lie is a lie is a lie," she said.
The congressmen said the purpose of the hearing was fact-finding. But the questions they asked were straight out of the House GOP strategy memo known as the "Obamacare playbook" – a Republican blueprint for attacking the law in the upcoming election cycle.
About three dozen protesters gathered outside the Gaston County Courthouse said the hearing was pure politics.
"It's the law that was passed by Congress. It was reviewed by the Supreme Court, so what is this?" protester Skip Edwards said.
He said the law will help him and his wife, who currently have no insurance because of pre-existing health problems.
Edwards said he wanted to testify at the hearing but was denied. Dana Wilson, who has multiple sclerosis and no insurance, was denied, too. She said the panel doesn't want to hear from Obamacare supporters.
"The taxpayers are paying for this, and it's not a real hearing. It's just grandstanding," Wilson said. "They need to go back to Washington and get to work."
Gerrick Brenner of Progress North Carolina Action says the law's glitches need to be fixed, but the hearing was a sham.
According to an Elon University Poll released Friday, health care now eclipses the economy as the most important issue in the minds of North Carolina voters. Twenty-four percent of those surveyed said the Affordable Care Act was the most pressing issue.
A total of 54 percent of respondents think the law will worsen health care in North Carolina, poll results show. A majority of Democrats - 58 percent - think health care will improve under the law, but only 5 percent of Republicans feel that way, according to the poll.