Union members, legislators discuss ways to support Obamacare

2013-08-22T21:15:00Z 2013-09-20T12:42:04Z Union members, legislators discuss ways to support ObamacareVanessa Renderman vanessa.renderman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3244 nwitimes.com

MERRILLVILLE | Local health care workers and legislators gathered Thursday to discuss their support of the Affordable Care Act and expansion of Medicaid in Indiana.

Although the Affordable Care Act is law, Republicans in the U.S. House have tried 40 times to repeal it.

And Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has refused to expand Medicaid eligibility, as directed by the Affordable Care Act, because he believes the federal government will not provide adequate funding.

State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, said Indiana stands to lose an estimated 30,000 jobs, as well as federal dollars, if Medicaid is not expanded. If Indiana does not get on board, Hoosier taxpayer dollars will fund health care in other states, he said.

At Thursday's meeting, a panel of legislators answered questions and heard stories from local health care workers who are members of Service Employees International Union.

State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said the group was preaching to the choir. She said it is up to people to expand beyond their circles by writing letters to the editor and calling in to radio stations to squash misconceptions about the Affordable Care Act.

Rogers refuses to call the legislation "Obamacare" because too many people hear "Obama" and reject it from the start for that reason, she said.

She asked why churches aren't more involved in educating people about the act and suggested that every church leader select the same Sunday to preach about the myths and facts of the Affordable Care Act.

The opposition is weighed down by fear, said House Democratic leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City.

"I think the opponents of the Affordable Care Act are terrified that, once again, they're going to be on the wrong side of history," he said.

Once Obamacare takes a firm hold and people embrace it, the ones who opposed it will look bad, so they don't want it to take hold at all, he said.

Mark Lopez, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, said Visclosky would be the first to admit the law is not perfect, but it will help millions of people.

"If you don't like it, make it better," Lopez said.

Open enrollment in plans offered under the act starts Oct. 1, and the Affordable Care Act individual mandate to have health insurance takes effect Jan. 1.

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