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In Republican Stronghold, Worries About End Of Obamacare

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In Republican Stronghold, Worries About End Of Obamacare

Protesters in Minnesota call for smaller government and the repeal of the health care law enacted in March, 2010. (Fibonacci Blue via Flickr)

By Margaret Newkirk, Bloomberg News (TNS)

In Georgia’s Gwinnett County where Republicans rule, few really love Obamacare. Few want to lose it either.

In parts of the county, about 1 in 8 people get insurance from the federal health-care program, making Gwinnett, near Atlanta, one of the biggest per capita users of the Affordable Care Act. The coverage is advertised in road signs along busy Jimmy Carter Boulevard near Lilburn. It’s the reason enrollment has dropped at low-cost clinics in Snellville and Norcross. It’s seeped into the Asian, Latino and African immigrant communities, becoming a mainstay for retail workers, contractors and the downsized.

As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to rule on a case that could make Obamacare’s private insurance unaffordable in Georgia and at least 33 other states, Gwinnett, where all five of the county commissioners belong to the Republican Party that has been leading the fight against the health care law, illustrates how for many the program has become a fact of life. Obamacare is both groused about and accepted, like taxes and the weather.

“I couldn’t buy insurance for myself after my husband retired, not until Obamacare,” said Ghada Nadhan, 63, an assistant manager of a food store who immigrated from Syria more than two decades ago. “Now I am afraid.”

Now before the Supreme Court, the King v. Burwell case threatens to make Obamacare unaffordable by ending federal subsidies that hold down premium costs based on income. A suit backed by conservative activists, citing a single phrase in the law, says those subsidies aren’t allowed in states that didn’t create their own health-care exchanges.

Led by the free-market Cato Institute in Washington, those opponents helped persuade Republican governors not to form state-run exchanges, as a tactic for undermining Obamacare.

More than 13 million Americans could lose tax credits that help pay for insurance coverage by next year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation in Menlo Park, Calif. Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia, the states with the most to lose, received a combined $19 billion, according to a December report by Democratic staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

All four states declined to create exchanges and could have spiraling premium increases if the court nixes their subsidies. In Georgia, premiums would rise 381 percent without the credits, according to a June 3 analysis by Kaiser.

“It’s not something that should be done based on a twisted interpretation of four words in, as we were reminded repeatedly, a couple-thousand-page piece of legislation,” President Barack Obama said Monday at a news briefing in Germany. “Part of what’s bizarre about this whole thing is we haven’t had a lot of conversation about the horrors of Obamacare because none of them have come to pass.”

In Gwinnett, attitudes about Obamacare depend a lot on subsidies, said Luis De La Rosa, an insurance salesman who advertises in a Hispanic part of Lilburn. He says ending the federal help would be a disaster.

“The people who say it doesn’t work now are the people who aren’t getting the subsidies and facing fines if they don’t enroll,” he said.

They’re also people who aren’t sick, he said.

“That’s an advantage people forget. Before, you couldn’t get insurance if you were sick.”

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Gwinnett is a microcosm of a changing nation. Once overwhelmingly white, it’s now one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the U.S., largely because of its immigrant population. It had 73,839 people enrolled in Obamacare’s insurance exchange as of May, the most in the state. Two Gwinnett zip codes had 12 percent of residents enrolled in Obamacare, the most outside of Florida.

Obamacare has had the biggest impact on the area’s low-cost medical facilities. At Gwinnett Community Clinic in Snellville, staff began calling former patients this year after a 30 percent enrollment drop.

“The reason they were gone is that they now had insurance,” director Sheila Adcock said.

The same thing happened in Norcross, at a clinic run by Boat People SOS. Daily caseloads dropped to 10 from 20 after the organization helped enroll immigrants in Obamacare, said Han Nguyen, a health navigator.

Even enrollees with generous subsidies have complaints, said Adcock, who heard some during her phone outreach.

“If you are a person in poverty, you’re not used to the idea of co-pays and deductibles, and you’re wondering what you are paying for,” she said.

Charles Pierre, 58, a Haitian immigrant and substitute teacher, was among those signed up by Nguyen. He said his subsidized premium has already almost doubled, to $45 a month from $23, and that he also has a $35 co-pay to see a doctor.

Pierre said he likes the security the insurance brings but would have to drop it if the subsidy disappears and the price goes up again.

“It’s going to be a struggle for me to pay for it,” he said. “What I earn is not changed.”

Valerie Dalton, 64, got her Obamacare insurance in February, after her banking job was eliminated and she could no longer afford the $700 monthly price to stay on her former employer’s plan.

She said her Obamacare premiums are about $360 per month, a price she still thinks is high but that she won’t have to pay for long. Next month she’ll turn 65 and be eligible for Medicare.

“I’m not politically active at all, but I feel badly that they are threatening this,” she said. “I think it’s really sad.”

(c)2015 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

File photo: Protesters in Minnesota call for smaller government and the repeal of the health care law enacted in March, 2010. (Fibonacci Blue via Flickr)



  1. TZToronto June 9, 2015

    The bottom line for the GOP and the Tea Party: Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.

  2. Daniel Jones June 9, 2015

    The biggest, most imminent threat to human life in this country: Conservative Republican Policy.

  3. Insinnergy June 9, 2015

    Grab the popcorn. This is going to be hilarious. Especially if the GOP “win”.

  4. Michael Mellema June 10, 2015

    The GOP is going to have a tsunami of hate coming their way. The good news is those that are really, really angry, don’t need background checks.

  5. oldlion June 10, 2015

    If the GOP win, be ready for them to blame the Dems for not having a backup plan. The people who lose their coverage in these red states will still vote for the people responsible for their lack of health care. It’s mind numbing.

  6. Eleanore Whitaker June 11, 2015

    The joke is that when red states lob blame for welfare on blue states in one breath, in the next, they are hot to deny blue states FEMA help for Superstorm Sandy because they label blue states, “rich.” Which the hell is it? Blue states all live off welfare or blue states are too rich to need a cent of the tax revenues our states pay more for than red states do?

    As for healthcare reform, the GOP can do what they always do, starve it to death to prove how these bull males of the right were so correct about government being unable to manage any program.

    Until you look at the number of CEOs arrested and thrown in prison during the Bush years: Kozlowski, Tyco, fraud and a $7,000 shower curtain. Ebbers and the Enron Boys…jail time for all for tax evasion and fraud and offshoring their profits in tax free havens in illegal banks. This is what the GOP calls “good program management?”

    1. hicusdicus June 11, 2015

      Well we meet again! Hello form bat guano 0ne to bat guano two. During all this celebration about Obama care no has asked where all the Doctors have gone.

      1. Eleanore Whitaker June 11, 2015

        That one is easy to answer. As a retired office/accounting manager, I frequently was required to review HMO forms regarding doctor claims in question.

        From 1980 when I first was employed by ADP for 5 years and assisted with HRD and personnel duties, I saw what precisely the big lie of HMOs were then and have grown far worse now. HMOs are “middle men.” Not just any middle men. They are the singular interface between doctor and patient. Need they be? But, that isn’t the real question Americans today should be asking. The real questions is WHY are they the interface between doctors and patients when they have NO medical licenses to practice?

        In 1980, the big push by HMOS was all of that money they were going to save employers. Oh what tangled webs they weave, when first they practiced to deceive. By 1990, only the Big 5 were raking in obscene profits. So much so that one of their minions, Healthcare South’s CEO got thrown in jail for using their customers’ premiums for their personal piggy banks.

        Every year for the 24+ years I was office manager, I saw first hand the skankage pulled off by HMOs with such relish that they believed they were the monopoly that got away with all manner of skankism.

        At first, their only prey was employees. Then, that obscene profit from jacked copays, deductibles and premiums wasn’t enough…it never is for greedy little pigs. So, they started in on the employers playing a good ole game of offering to undercut their competitors rates to get employers to enroll employees. Then at renewal time one year later? Jack the cost to double and triple to make up for the prior year’s huge discount. This is business? Or is it greed?

        After they ran through employees and employers pockets, their only target next were doctors and hospitals. So, they set up stricter “network” rules that hemmed doctors in with such ferocity, doctors began to refuse to accept HMO mandates like constant second guessing of doctor diagnoses and demanding less tests these doctors performed. That STILL wasn’t enough. Then, these pigs of HMOs decided to demand doctors “see” a specific number of patients every day. Meanwhile, these skanks played around with the typical scumbucket delay tactic of delaying doctors their payments until “they checked the validity of doctors’ work via their claims.”

        Truth is stranger than fiction when it comes to the way some men of mass greed manage to suck the life out of American consumers.

        1. hicusdicus June 11, 2015

          You are so eloquently correct. You are a bat guano who knows what she is talking about. The medical industry is no longer focused on peoples health its aim is emptying their wallets.

          1. Eleanore Whitaker June 12, 2015

            You know how when you are trying to do month end accounting reports and the jangling of the office phone becomes a major interruption? Those massive calls were HMO hawkers. What was most annoying was the 1st question out of their mouths: “What is the median age of your employees?”

            The minute I told them it was 50, which it was due to the fact that all of us on staff had been with the company nearly 20 years, they hung up the phone faster than a NASA rocket could take off into space.


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