Johnson talks health care in Salem

SALEM, Ohio (WKBN) — With time running out to sign up for the nation’s Affordable Care Act, Valley Congressman Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, thinks the administration is not going to be able to reach its enrollment projections.

The Congressman spoke Tuesday at the Salem Rotary lunch meeting. He said while organizers of the government’s health care reform package originally wanted to sign up at least seven million people by March 31, less than five million had successfully enrolled as of March 1.

“And with roughly 15 days or so left in the month, I don’t see that they’re going to be able to make that up and the get the number of enrollees to pay for this. And what is that going to mean? It’s going to mean higher costs, less access,” Johnson said.

He said he has been hearing from local constituents who already are seeing lost services and rising premiums.

“Whether you’re a business owner who is now cutting back the hours of your employees to less than 30 hours a week or whether you’re an individual or a family that has seen your health insurance policies canceled,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he’s pushing a measure in Congress that would restore some of the cuts planned in the Medicare Advantage program to help pay for the Affordable Care Act. He said nearly 800,000 Ohio seniors are now covered under the plan.

One of the people Johnson heard from Tuesday was Salem mortgage banker William Dawes, who is the father of a toddler with another baby on the way. He said two years ago he could count on stable premiums for health care, but all that is changing.

“Going with the high deductible plan, health savings account. It’s much more difficult to get a handle on those costs and it’s definitely going to be a lot more expensive,” Dawes said.

He said the ripple effect of higher premiums affects everyone.

“It’s not just about the cost in terms of what they’re going to pay for their health care services, but also how much disposable income they’re going to be left with to purchase a home, to purchase an automobile and dinner on a nightly basis,” Dawes said.

Johnson said lawmakers and President Barack Obama need to salvage parts of the health care act that will benefit consumers, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions and keeping children on their parents’ coverage longer, and fix the rest.

“People want to see results. We continue to hear about unemployment levels. This [the Affordable Care Act] is not going to help that. I think it’s going to cause further unemployment,” said Vicki Hall of Salem.

Johnson is seeking his third term in the House and will likely face Democrat Jennifer Garrison in the fall.

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