DNC's Perez, other Democrats hit GOP on health care

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Farmington Hills — Health care costs and prescription drug prices will continue to soar under President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers, Democrats and their health care professional allies said Friday.

Led by Democratic National Party Chair Tom Perez, a forum featuring Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilcrest and two physicians defended the federal Affordable Care Act that has expanded health insurance coverage for low-income earners and subsidized coverage for others.

Michigan Democratic Party chair Lavora Barnes, left, joined state Rep. Padma Kuppa, D-Troy, as well as Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez and state Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, at a Friday, Feb. 28, 2020 forum in Farmington Hills.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has helped drive down amount of the uninsured in Michigan and across the country, they said. They argue if a key part of the federal law isn't upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, individuals with coverage for pre-existing conditions will be left without care because of the GOP.

"This president has once again broken his promises on health care and he's broken his promises on prescription drugs," Perez said. "And he has once again left so many people in the woods by fighting by putting a fork in the Affordable Care Act, by going to court and attempting to away with coverage for pre-existing conditions."

Republicans have criticized the federal health care law for failing to meet President Barack Obama's promises of allowing customers to keep their insurance plan and doctor. Mandates in the law often forced individuals buying health care plans on the federal Obamacare exchange to shift plans and drop their doctors.

Congress has since killed the individual mandate, which forced Americans to buy health care insurance coverage whether they wanted it or not or risk paying hundreds of dollars in federal fines. President Donald Trump's administration is seeking to have the law ruled unconstitutional. 

Democrats argue overturning the law would result in people with pre-existing conditions going without health insurance. Republicans have argued they would pass a new health care law that would protect the coverage of people with pre-existing conditions.

The discussion at the Vindu Indian Cuisine restaurant was used to engage whom Democrats view as a key constituency — Asians and Pacific Islanders — and to spread the message in battleground states that reforming healthcare is an issue that the party stands behind.

"People truly are struggling to make decisions about how to pay for prescription drugs or how to make sure they have food on the table," said Lavora Barnes, chairwoman of the Michigan Democratic Party.

The president, she said, "will continue to go after the ACA. It's a danger for our people, it's a danger for our community."

Dr. Vivek Palavali, a neurosurgeon based in the Flint area, said "health care equality" is something close to his heart and that's why he's been involved in the fight to protect the Affordable Care Act and get everyone insured.

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party's Liberty and Justice Celebration, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, in Iowa.

"The saddest part is that American is the only developed nation that does not provide health care for all its citizens, which is incredible," Palavali said, adding that rising health care costs force many families into bankruptcy.

The Republican Party, however, said Perez and the Democrats have it wrong.

"It’s great that Tom Perez finally found the state of Michigan, but unfortunately for the broke DNC, they will not be able to catch up to the permanent, data driven ground game of Trump Victory that hasn’t left since 2016," said Michael Joyce, spokesman for the Republican National Committee. "Come Nov. 3, voters across Michigan will once again vote for President Trump and Republicans up-and-down the ballot."

In Michigan alone, 392,000-plus people participate in the Affordable Care Act, said State Rep. Padma Kuppa, D-Troy, who also serves on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's task for on lowering prescription drugs. "If the ACA were to fail, more than a million Michiganders would lose their health care," she said.


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