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Hispanic Dems warn Latinos will be hit hard by ObamaCare repeal

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 Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) warn that repealing ObamaCare without an appropriate replacement would disproportionately hurt Latino families.

“First and foremost we need to protect and defend healthcare for the American people,” Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) told The Hill on Thursday. 

House Republicans on Friday passed a measure to begin dismantling the Affordable Cart Act (ACA) through a process known as budget reconciliation, which can bypass a Senate filibuster.

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Democrats are decrying the push to roll back the healthcare law, arguing there could be disastrous consequences for people with serious illnesses. 

“We want to make sure that people who have diabetes, asthma, obesity no longer are discriminated against and face being denied health insurance or having to pay more health insurance,” Ruiz said. “All those things we need to protect are on the chopping block with repealing the entirety of the Affordable Care Act.” 

Latinos have one of the highest rates of diabetes, asthma and obesity, and benefited disproportionately from a clause in the healthcare law banning denial of coverage due to preexisting conditions. 

Republicans say ObamaCare is broken beyond repair, and point to rising premiums as evidence that it is unworkable and must be repealed. 

“This [law] is collapsing under its own weight, and we have to step in and save people from this,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said this week.

Democrats dispute that ObamaCare premiums are out of control and say the law has done more to control costs that Republicans give it credit for.

“Premiums have gone up, but I will submit that they have gone up at a much lower percentage than premiums were going up before the ACA was enacted,” said Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) in a press conference Wednesday. “If the ACA was not in place and premiums were going up double digits like they were in the years prior, year over year, nobody would be able to afford coverage.”

Ruiz, a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee that has jurisdiction over healthcare legislation, acknowledged that rising healthcare costs are an issue. 

“We need to go to the root problem of our healthcare and why premiums and deductibles and all that are going up,” he said. “The Affordable Care Act addressed healthcare costs so the rate of rise decreased during the Affordable Care Act, but people don’t feel that, people feel what they have to pay out of pocket.” 

He said a lack of medical professionals, few coverage options — particularly in rural areas — and a lack of competition in the drug industry are among the factors driving up costs. 

“I believe in market economics, but you need to have competition,” Ruiz said. “With certain drugs and with certain regions and in health insurance there is no such thing as competition.”

Echoing other Democrats, various members of the CHC members have accused Republicans of racing toward repeal of ObamaCare without having a plan in place to replace it. 

“Shame on the Republicans for harking for seven years, for saying ‘repeal the Affordable Care Act.’ They’ve had seven years to come up with an alternative plan and they have absolutely nothing,” said Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.).

Republicans say they are forging ahead with the effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, with President-elect Donald Trump expressing confidence this week that the effort can be finished quickly.

“The first thing we need to do in this new Congress is start the process of repealing ObamaCare so we can replace it with the forms that actually lower costs and put patients back in charge of their medicals decisions and get government bureaucrats out of those,” said Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.).

But some Republicans are anxious about the timeline, and are pushing their leaders to put forward a clear alternative before an ObamaCare repeal bill is passed this spring. 

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who presented an alternative healthcare bill in May, said Republicans should approach the debate with specific proposals for replacement. 

“We were accused of not having any bills that would address the issue,” Sessions said. “I’m sitting in the Rules Committee year after year knowing that Republicans needed to have a positive alternative that would make sure that 30 million more people and anybody on ObamaCare would be covered.” 

“I believe what we’ve gotta do is come up with a replacement before we repeal something,” he said. 

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