Roundtable explores what end of Obamacare might bring

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, listens during a news conference on President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — While some are concerned an estimated 22 million people would lose medical insurance if the Affordable Care Act were repealed, others believe flaws in the ACA, nicknamed “Obamacare,” mean it should be scrapped and redone entirely.

Rhode Island Democrat Rep. David Cicilline held a roundtable discussion Friday morning examining how the ACA is currently impacting Rhode Island residents, and how they would be affected if President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans succeed in repealing the act.

Cicilline said an outright repeal of the ACA would have a devastating effect on Rhode Islanders. He said the state currently has the lowest-levels of uninsured residents, and said in 2015, 15,000 seniors in Rhode Island saved an estimated $14 million on prescription drugs because the act closed the so-called “donut hole” of Medicare.

The roundtable comes the day after House Republicans outlined their proposal to repeal and replace the ACA, saying finalized legislation would be submitted after the upcoming 10-day congressional recess. At Friday’s roundtable, Cicilline said Republicans have been dragging their feet to repeal and replace Obamacare for years.

“One of the reasons they don’t show us the plan is because it isn’t better,” said Cicilline. “Because if it was better they’d be bragging about it.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s summary of the GOP proposal includes a cap in Medicaid spending as well as a plan to replace insurance subsidies currently based on income, with tax credits based on age. The plan would also eliminate tax penalties for the uninsured. Cicilline said he worries the GOP-controlled Congress will repeal the ACA without a viable replacement waiting in the wings. He pledged to fight alongside fellow Democrats in Congress to avoid an all-out repeal, adding he’s not opposed to improving the ACA.

The roundtable discussion at the Providence Community Health Center also featured input from the director of healthcare clearinghouse HealthSource RI, Zachary Sherman, as well as constituents like Ellie Brown. Brown is currently covered under the state’s Medicaid expansion, which faces an uncertain future. She said she worries about her future, and that of her elderly father.

“One’s socio-economic status shouldn’t determine whether they get health insurance,” said Brown, an artist who lives on the poverty line. “Everyone deserves insurance.”

The Republicans’ plan to overhaul the ACA pledges to restructure Medicaid but also promises not to “pull the rug out” from under those who are currently covered by states’ expanded Medicaid programs.