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August 01. 2013 8:33PM

Health law foes rally against 'broken promises'


Joe Thomas, left, of Merrimack and State Rep. Philip Straight of Merrimack hold signs during the Wrong for New Hampshire Picnic and Rally in Concord on Thursday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

Former Speaker of the House William O’Brien during the Wrong for New Hampshire Picnic and Rally hosted by Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire on the State House lawn in Concord on Thursday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

CONCORD — Opponents of the Affordable Care Act on Thursday characterized the health care overhaul law as destructive and a trail of broken promises.

The anti-ACA rally on the State House lawn sponsored by Americans for Prosperity — New Hampshire drew about 175 people, including many lawmakers.

Former House Speaker William O'Brien, a noted ACA opponent and potential 2nd Congressional District candidate, said the health care reform act was as destructive for the country as the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act that allowed slave owners to come to New Hampshire to take back escaped slaves.

"Barack Obama and our allies fooled us long enough to pass a law that is clearly among the worst ever enacted by Congress," he said.

As speaker, O'Brien, R-Mont Vernon, led the charge against the act and the state's cooperation with its provisions, including backing efforts to block the state from establishing its own health insurance exchange.

This session he introduced a bill, which was defeated, that would have barred the state from expanding Medicaid eligibility under the ACA.

O'Brien and other speakers warned of insurance premium increases, lost jobs and health insurance, and tax increases directly and indirectly from the new law. They said it needs to be repealed and stopped in its tracks before any more damage is done.

The speakers preached to the choir of participants, many holding signs opposing "Obamacare."

Key components of the ACA are about to take effect, such as the health insurance exchanges where individuals and small businesses can shop to compare coverage plans, and the mandate for individual insurance coverage for everyone.

"Obama promised this would create jobs," O'Brien said. "Instead it's created 16,000 IRS (Internal Revenue Service) jobs to make sure we comply with Obamacare."

AFP — NH director Greg Moore called the act a series of broken promises, from lower costs to no new taxes on the middle class.

"We need to slow down the implementation of this law and get it right because people's lives are at stake," he said.

He quoted former Vermont governor and Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, who said provisions of the law essentially amount to health care rationing, which drew cheers and shouts of "What about the death panels?" from several attendees.

But supporters of the ACA and Medicaid expansion said the rally was one of many across the country seeking to block implementation and win political points for the next election.

"AFP's event is part of a national conservative campaign to actively discourage people from accessing quality, affordable health care, and they will particularly be targeting young adult men to encourage them to skip health coverage," said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. "This behavior is shameful political shenanigans that will hurt Granite State families."

She said that while consumer health advocates try to find ways to cover more people, groups such as Americans for Prosperity and politicians such as O'Brien are trying to come between people and their doctors, and make access more burdensome so they can use health care reform as a wedge issue in the next election.

She said while Democrats led by the President have worked to reform the system, groups like Americans For Prosperity and politicians like O'Brien have failed to offer meaningful ideas and instead walked the path of partisan obstructionism.

Lawmakers are now trying to decide if the state should expand Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, as called for in the ACA. State health officials believe the expansion would add about 49,000 people to the Medicaid rolls, providing $2.4 billion in federal money for health care providers over the next seven years while costing the state $18 million.

Gov. Maggie Hassan and the Democrat-controlled House included Medicaid expansion in their budgets, but the Republican-controlled Senate blocked the plan and created a commission to study expansion instead.

The commission has an Oct. 15 deadline to make recommendations and a special session of the Legislature is likely this fall to act on the proposals.

Rep. Pam Tucker, R-Greenland, a former House Deputy Speaker, told the crowd that House Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth, says the state will lose $1 million a day if Medicaid isn't expanded. "Where is that money coming from?" Tucker said. "We know where it's coming from."

She said the ACA is a great example of government out of control and it must be stopped.

grayno@unionleader.com


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