ST. LOUIS — At an Obamacare Town Hall meeting, House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, was one of several to address a full audience at the Maryville University auditorium about their views of the past, present and future of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Jones was the first of three speakers to address the audience at the event hosted by 97.1 FM News Talk — a conservative radio station — and said his role was to present the “political and legal realities” surrounding the ACA. Looking into the act’s past, Jones said it was birthed as a massive and political piece of legislation. Over the past nearly fours years since its implementation, Jones added that he’s only met two people who have read the full text.
“They said it’s hard to understand,” Jones said.
With that, he said changes and challenges to the bill continue to make it more complex.
“There are tens of thousands of thousands of regulations being drafted everyday,” Jones said. “Folks, the bill’s not done yet. They are still drafting regulations everyday to try and implement the bill because this has been the hardest entitlement to ever implement in our nation’s history. Think about that. We are now three-and-a-half, four years post passage of this bill and we still don’t know exactly what it’s going to do or exactly how it’s going to do it.”
Later in the event, health insurance broker Vincent Blair addressed the uncertainty surrounding the bill, as it has no precedent.
“We’re in unchartered waters,” he said.
Jones made the point to the audience that the ACA bill was passed by Democrats only.
“That should tell you something about the bill. It’s political. It’s a political issue. It was because one party wanted to say they did something for health care,” Jones said. “But I’m going to tell you the reality is that it has not addressed the true issue of healthcare, which is cost.”
Jones said three “political realities” have helped him understand where Missourians stand on this issue.
– 1. About 72 percent of Missourians voted against the ACA’s implementation of an individual mandate when they voted “yes” on Prop C.
– 2. Two years after Prop C, Jones said about 62 percent of Missourians voted against the “second most fundamental part of Obamacare: state-based health care.”
– 3. In 2012, Missouri voters chose former Gov. Mitt Romney for the presidency. During his campaign, Romney promised to try and abolish the ACA.
“Romney said it over and over again and he was consistent,” Jones said. “He was elected in this state by over 11-and-a-half percent of the vote, which is a political landslide. As someone in [the] business, I can tell you that.”
Jones also said that the opinion of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was that the ACA wasn’t a mandate, but a tax.
“It’s the largest tax ever forced on America,” Jones said. “Congress can tax a ham sandwich so they can surely tax your health care and make you purchase a product, something which has never happened in the history of this country.”
Jones also discussed how he has seen an increasing amount of labor unions wanting to be exempt from the bill.
“What a strange world we now live in,” he said. “One of the groups that was principally behind the passage of takeover of one-sixth of our economy because they thought it would help their guy get reelected is now opposed to his signature item. I just read a letter the other day from of one of the heads from one of the largest national unions and they said we now realize that we may not be able to keep the health care plans that you said we could, Mr. President.”
Jones had a bottom line.
“Cost is going up. Choice is going down. And people are going get grants and waivers,” Jones said. “My side of the aisle was called crazy at the national election. Every single one of those things has come true…Politically, we are stuck between two elections.”
Unless Republicans take the U.S. Senate majority, Jones said the potential for “significant” and “positive” ACA change would not be until the 2016 presidential election.
“If you don’t like what you have right now; If you don’t like it — and I think I know where the majority of Missourians are — then you need to drag your aunts, uncles, friends, cousins, brothers and sisters to the polls in 2014 and 2016 and see if Missouri can continue to lead the way on a bill that I believe has caused more damage than good and will continue to do so,” he said.
Brittany Ruess was a reporter for The Missouri Times and the SEMO Times, and a graduate of Webster University.