Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, Congressman Fitzpatrick, town halls

Letter-to-Editor ~ Town Halls & Misleading Seniors

04.21.14 | | Comment?

philly burbsIntelligencer-PB-logo

Posted: Monday, April 21, 2014 12:15 am

 A recent letter writer said that Congressman Fitzpatrick was having real town halls. I believe the writer refers to an August 2013 weekend.Two town halls were held: Aug. 2 in Springfield Township and Aug. 4 in Salford Township. The “No Labels” event was also held that weekend, which many did not consider a town hall.

There have been no town halls since the two in August 2013. And the staff did not tell me about them when I asked for the town hall schedule. Why not? I wanted to go.

You see, I have been trying to publicly address my congressman about his misstatements about the Affordable Care Act. I believe he has been scaring constituents for political reasons.

 For example, the congressman relies on seniors not knowing the difference between Medicare and the private, for-profit policies sold to seniors called “Medicare Advantage.”

The congressman says Medicare is being “cut,” and he is on the side of seniors. In fact, the opposite is true.

Medicare Advantage siphons money from traditional Medicare in the form of overpayments to private companies that sell the Medicare Advantage policies. The health care law looks to scale back these overpayments, characterized by the New York Times as “unjustified federal subsidies to the insurance companies.”

There are many examples like this where the congressman is not telling his constituents the whole story on an issue.

Let’s have as many town halls as the constituents want. We can discuss the public’s business for the benefit of everybody, not just individuals who meet privately.

Theresa BrownGold


Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, art as social inquiry, Congressman Fitzpatrick, town halls

Oy Vey! A Photo, Mysterious Disappearing Article Again! AND Calkins News Edits Out Important Part of LTE

01.12.14 | | Comment?

First an undated photo of me on the front page of our local newspaper. Then my response in a letter-to-the-editor with portion edited out that did not see print. And there is always the question, “Did our local press self-censor at our congressman’s request?” Welcome to 2014. Read on….

“The newspaper pulled a 2013 story critical of the congressman’s lack of town halls under questionable pretenses.  And now the editors print an undated photo that gives the reading public a false impression about the congressman holding real town halls.

These are just two instances in my personal experience where the congressman seems to be coddled by this newspaper.”

Our local newspapers, the Intelligencer and its sister paper, the Courier Times (part of Calkins News Group), recently recapped 2013 in their publications.

The article included this undated picture of me from 2011. I suppose my efforts to have real town halls with my congressman was topical? Oy Vey! Whatta picture!

Intel Pictures

But why run a 2011 photo of me at a town hall with no mention of my repeated and unsuccessful efforts to get to real town halls in 2013? (There was an event at a church that someone tipped me off about….Jeeesh, and that’s what we have to rely on in Pa-8?  Informants?)

Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa-8) is NOT having town halls.  Publishing a picture of me or anybody at a town hall as part of a recap of 2013 is misleading .

The Courier Times printed my response (since removed from the online edition) to having the undated, misleading photo of me on their front page. One paragraph from that LTE was omitted. The entire letter including the deleted paragraphs is here. Omitted paragraphs in blue.:

The newspaper ran a picture of me at a town hall with Congressman Fitzpatrick.  The photo was not dated. That photo is from 2011.

Is that how far back the newspaper had to go to find a picture of the congressman at an unscripted town hall??? It’s 2014 not 2011.  Publishing a 2011 photo is misleading when this issue of town halls is very topical in PA-8.

The newspaper pulled a photo from its archives of the one person most publicly critical of the congressman on the town hall issue, and has her at a town hall. This creates the false impression that the congressman is having town halls, and his critics are attending.

A DATED PHOTO FROM 2011 would have made my point: It has been a LONG time since the congressman really faced his constituents.

The congressman does not want to be caught at a real town hall.  Informed constituents would challenge their representative to square his words with his votes.  I would challenge him on his campaign of misinformation about the Affordable Care Act.

Calling the congressman out on his strategy of avoiding unscripted town halls is not personal. It’s the business of the people in a functioning democracy.

The newspaper pulled a 2013 story critical of the congressman’s lack of town halls under questionable pretenses.  And now the editors print an undated photo that gives the reading public a false impression about the congressman holding real town halls. 

These are just two instances in my personal experience where the congressman seems to be coddled by this newspaper.

A free, independent press sustains democracy. I would like reassurances that our local press holds fast to high standards of journalistic independence. Perhaps we could start the dialog with the printing of this letter. Let’s talk.  Is our local press an extension of Congressman Fitzpatrick’s PR office?

Why all this business with town halls, the press, etc?

In trying to get to real town halls to address my congressman’s misstatements about the Affordable Care Act, I stepped into what I believe is a bunker mentality coming from the Congressman and his staff. Real discourse with the public is to be avoided.  “Town halls” were held without proper notification of the public, and then they dried up altogether. I tried in vain to get advance notice of town halls. Finally, I decided to keep close track of town halls so I wouldn’t miss any. That effort became the Art As Social Inquiry project,  Tracking Town Halls: Does the First Amendment Matter?

Throughout this piece, I reference the August 2013 disappearing article by Gary Weckselblatt, longtime respected reporter at the Intelligencer.  That newspaper piece was critical of Congressman Fitzpatrick and his apparent unwillingness to meet his constituents at town halls. The article has since disappeared from the online version of the newspaper as well as another online outlet that picked it up, PA/NJ NBC News. Also, Mr. Weckselblatt, the reporter, has been removed from the newspaper’s political beat. The newspaper contends that the article critical of the Congressman contained “inaccuracies.” The source of those inaccuracies remains unknown.

Why is this important to me?  I want our local press to go the extra mile to show its readership that they do not bend to the will of our congressman.  It would help to know what the “inaccuracies” are that caused the editors to banish an article by a respected journalist, and one that, coincidentally was critical of the Congressman.  It would also be helpful to know if this information — info that would cause a major news source in our region to censor its work —  didn’t come with a little arm-twisting by the congressman or his staff.  What are the inaccuracies in the censored article?

Citizens rely on a free press.  Democracy is nothing but theater for public entertainment until it ceases to exist at all without a strong, independent, free press. (Open and unscripted dialog at well publicized town halls also helps.)





Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, art as social inquiry, Congressman Fitzpatrick, town halls

Congressman Fitzpatrick on One Long Press Junket

12.13.13 | | 2 Comments

This letter-to-the-editor appeared in the Midweek Wire print edition. (No LTEs appear in the online edition.) 

The Midweek WireWire Logo


I have gone to the trouble of keeping a log of town halls in Rep. Fitzpatrick’s district for many months so I can attend a few to talk about my representative’s positions on the healthcare law. The congressman’s staff did not tell me about two that happened in August in Salford Township and Springtown when I asked. I read about them in the newspaper. There have been no real public town halls since then that I am aware of.

After months of keeping a log, I have observed how politics is played in PA-8.

Constituents who want to challenge the congressman on the issues are political liabilities to be avoided especially at public town halls.

I suspect this congressman and many other representatives do not want to be videoed talking to folks at real town halls.  They prefer events that are managed or staged where the dialog can be controlled. This, in turn, controls what the press sees. The press then feeds the congressman’s message to the general public.

At a real town hall, the congressman would be on the hot seat. He would have to answer for his statements on the healthcare law and his votes on the gov’t shut-down, for example.

We see the congressman visiting seniors, and tenderly talking to veterans. But he voted for Paul Ryan’s plan to alter Medicare by turning it into a voucher program that would hurt seniors.

And the veterans? The congressman uses every low-ball, incendiary Republican talking point about the healthcare law without regard to facts. Is he really working for the vets ? One out of every 10 vets will get health insurance because of the healthcare law.

So what is really going on in PA-8?

PA-8 is comprised of Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Pleasing them all is difficult.

I believe our congressman’s answer to this political conundrum is image.  Appear to be accessible by making many private appearances where challenges are less likely; avoid being challenged in public on the issues where substantive answers are required; and hope this strategy wins enough moderate voters to win an election.

Unfortunately, it seems that serving as US congressman for PA-8 in the House of Representatives has become one long press junket to keep a congressional seat.

Theresa BrownGold

Art As Social Inquiry

Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, art as social inquiry, BrownGold, Congressman Fitzpatrick, healthcare

09.20.13 | | Comment?

Yours Truly has a guest opinion piece in our local paper, The Intelligencer, rebutting PA-8 representative Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick’s ideas about reforming healthcare.  


With health care law repeal, many consumer protections would disappear

By Theresa BrownGold

Constituents familiar with my art and advocacy work often send me letters about health care they receive from our congressman, Mike Fitzpatrick. In some letters, the congressman mixes unhelpful talking points with his less well-known proposals. At times, the congressman even makes a strong case for Obamacare, albeit unwittingly.

The congressman says he wants to retain some of Obamacare’s consumer protections, such as keeping children on their parents’ policies until age 26 and providing coverage to those with pre-existing conditions (guaranteed issue). Who doesn’t? These goodies, however, need to be paid for.DSC_0313

We can expect heavy lobbying by insurance companies to send this notion of guaranteed issue without an individual mandate (everybody participates) straight to Mars. Based on our current for-profit model of delivering health insurance, insurance companies would not agree to insure all the sick people without the healthy. And if the congressman proposes giving private insurance companies extra money to cover sick people, we’d be promoting a system that encourages people not to get too well so they can keep their insurance.

By flirting with the notion of saving some of Obamacare’s consumer protections, the congressman should then list the consumer protections he’d discard by having the law repealed.

Here are just a few: no copays for preventive services, no dropping of coverage if you become ill (rescission), no more charging more for women, no more annual or lifetime caps on coverage and no more referrals for ob-gyn. Would our congressman get rid of accountable care organizations and medical homes that reward providers for outcomes, or the prescription drug benefit saving seniors billions (“closing the doughnut hole”)? How about transparency rules on the exchanges (easy to understand policies), telling the insurance companies they have to spend at least 80 cents of every dollar on actual care, requiring an outside agency to review exorbitant premium hikes, the SHOP exchange for small businesses, a limit to out-of-pocket expenses, essential health benefits (insurance policies can’t be too skimpy), subsidies to help lower-wage earners afford insurance and freedom from “job-lock” (stuck in a job for the insurance)?

And how would the congressman propose paying to repeal the Affordable Care Act? The Congressional Budget Office’s latest report says repealing the health care law would actually raise the deficit $109 billion over 10 years.PUBLISH

The congressman advocates selling insurance across state lines. This is an exceptionally bad idea. Insurance companies would set up in states with the fewest regulations and then be able to sell their skimpy policies to anyone in the country for cheap. Individual states’ insurance regulations and consumer protections would become null and void. He would, essentially, be nationalizing a new low standard for insurance coverage, squeezing states’ regulations out of the picture. Please note an insurance company can sell in any state now if it wishes to go through a state’s licensing process.

The congressman supports association health plans, where small businesses band together for greater purchasing power. What’s to stop businesses from doing that now? Chambers of commerce, guilds and associations have been offering insurance at group rates to their members for years. Furthermore, a business must shoulder the cost of joining that association before being allowed to purchase its group insurance. As far back as 2011, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported employer-based coverage has been dropping precipitously. That trend has not changed, even though group insurance through associations has long been available.

Obamacare, on the other hand, takes this idea of pooling purchasing power by establishing small-business exchanges called SHOP. Small businesses will be able to go to the online marketplaces and buy group policies with the purchasing power of large businesses. Small businesses have been paying about 18 percent more than larger businesses for group insurance. SHOP looks to remedy this disparity.ASI PHOTOS OF ALL PAINTINGS

Congressman Fitzpatrick is an advocate for tort reform as a way to end the practice of expensive defensive medicine. Ten years after Texas passed tort reform, doctors are seeing their malpractice premiums drop, but more people are not able to buy insurance and get health care. The notion that tort reform will cause premiums to fall, thereby giving millions of uninsured folks access to health insurance, has been debunked by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2003, Texas held the top spot with 25 percent of its population uninsured. Ten years after tort reform, Texas still claims that dubious honor.

Theresa BrownGold, New Britain Township, is a portrait painter and uses her art to start dialogue around social issues. As a Pennsylvania Health Access Network certified trainer, she gives presentations about the Affordable Care Act.

Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, art as social inquiry, healthcare, portraits, Public Appearances

THREE ASI Events Coming Up!

08.24.13 | | Comment?

Event 1


Event 2


Event 3

Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, Congressman Fitzpatrick, Public Appearances, town halls


08.21.13 | | Comment?

2013 Town Hall Newspaper Video

(Scroll down to read the missing article.)

The Bucks County Courier Times recently printed a piece that examined Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick’s (PA-8) record on holding real town halls. Characterizing that record as dismal is kind.  The article was critical of the congressman. The story was taken down by the newspaper.

The alarming question lingers: Did Rep. Fitzpatrick or his staff pressure the local press to remove the uncomplimentary article about the congressman not having town halls? (The removed article is below.)

Delaware Valley PA/NJ NBC News also picked up the article before Calkins Media censored the story. (PA/NJ NBC News has also removed the Calkins article since the writing of this blogpost.)

The Bucks County Courier Times piece garnered over 100 comments. Town halls or lack thereof have become a hot topic in PA’s 8th district.

The article was posted online…removed… re-posted…removed….and then just the video was put back up.

WHY did the press self-censor and remove the article? What happened from the time the piece was posted until the final removal?

The story was written by a respected and longtime journalist of the newspaper.

Many attempts by me and others to attend town halls appear to have been thwarted by a lack of information from the congressman about when town halls were actually happening. We felt our voices were muzzled by the congressman and now further silenced by the press that killed the article criticizing the congressman on his town hall policiy.

As one young person said to me, “Nothing disappears from the internet.”

The 8/19/2013 story has been retrieved (below). Please read, share widely and comment. How important are town halls?

8/22/2013 Postscript: The newspaper told me the story was pulled because of “inaccuracies.”  What exactly are these inaccuracies and who brought them to the editors’ attention? Did Congressman Fitzpatrick or his staff have a hand in getting the article removed?

2013 Town Hall Newspaper Video

Fitzpatrick meeting strategy ‘muzzles’ critics

By Gary Weckselblatt Staff Writer

When he set out to reclaim the 8th District congressional seat he lost in 2006, Mike Fitzpatrick was part of a group of about two dozen Republicans interrupting an event held by Congressman Patrick Murphy, and demanding to be heard.

Health care reform had captured the angst of the tea party movement in 2009 and the crowd was adamant that Murphy, a Democrat who supported the Affordable Care Act, hold a districtwide town hall to publicly explain his position.

Murphy, who often held “Congressman on Your Corner” events at supermarkets, enjoyed greeting people in a smaller, more personal environment. Indeed, the meetings he was holding at the Middletown Township building the day of the GOP invasion were scheduled one-on-ones.

Fast forward four years and Fitzpatrick, now in his third term, is the one who citizens are demanding to hear from in a public forum. Left-leaning constituents are calling on him to hold districtwide town halls — as he did in 2011 — and stick to his promise, made after the 2010 election, to become “the most accessible member of Congress that anybody can remember.”

Instead, Fitzpatrick has developed a practice to strategically silence the opposition by limiting events to certain towns and forcing questions to be written out at many events, essentially squelching any back-and-forth with the audience in favor of his soliloquy.

He does indeed get around his district, working long days on summer recess, but his audiences of business, veterans groups, Scouts and schools are smaller, more targeted, and captive to his vanilla presentation.

The traditional town hall event into which he tried to pressure Murphy no longer takes place and it’s left some constituents feeling “muzzled” and “disenfranchised.”

‘Blow to the gut’

One woman who calls his office every workday for meeting information has been told he doesn’t have any that day only to find out later by Fitzpatrick’s postings on Facebook and Twitter that she has been lied to.

“I am feeling as though I suffered a blow to the gut,” said Theresa BrownGold of New Britain Township.

Several letters to the newspaper in recent weeks point to the frustration. One, by Carl Kemmerer, a Democrat from Springtown in Upper Bucks, described a one-hour meeting with about 40 people as “a waste of time and certainly not a town meeting.”

He said Fitzpatrick spoke for about 20 minutes and then took only three questions, which had to be submitted with names and addresses on 3-by-5 cards.

“It’s a disappointing thing when you’d like to stand up and ask a live question and get an answer in a timely manner,” Kemmerer said in a telephone interview. “You would hope that he would take as many questions and get as many views as possible. These events have become, quite frankly, staged that all you hear is party-line propaganda.”

That was the complaint at another recent event at the lower county campus of Bucks County Community College, where Fitzpatrick and David Walker, the former U.S. comptroller general, spoke about a congressional “problem-solving” group Walker founded called “No Labels.”

Pegged as a town hall, Fitzpatrick and Walker had no disagreements and their conversation allowed for only about six questions, all submitted on written cards.

“I have never been so disappointed with such a meeting,” wrote Rick Lutz, a former Republican and now a registered Libertarian from Bristol Township. “The people were totally controlled as to what questions they could ask, and that was done by having them write the questions on pieces of paper before the meeting. Otherwise, the people were to keep their mouths shut while the people running the meeting talked down to them.”

During the talk, Walker said the 8th District race was one of only 35 in the nation considered competitive. Fitzpatrick said he considered that a positive because a “more challenging district makes me a better representative. I have to listen and respect everyone’s opinion.”

The words have irritated those who contend he has refused to hear them.

BrownGold, a former independent who became a Democrat to vote in the primaries, logs the daily calls she makes to Fitzpatrick’s office seeking information about town hall meetings at An advocate for health care reform, she said workers in Fitzpatrick’s office told her he had no public meetings on days when he did.

“Is the congressman’s staff deliberately lying to a constituent? I think so,” she said. “Why is this congressman deliberately trying to control who knows about his town halls? How long can he get away with it?

“We the constituents are powerless against the big PR machine a congressman has at his fingertips. He can ignore and lie to us and who is to know he is doing it? We are nobodies, and Fitzpatrick makes that point behaving as though we are not entitled to know when he is having town halls.”

Fitzpatrick said BrownGold’s arguments have no merit as she has spoken at several of his events.

“She’s engaged me more than most constituents,” he said.

Both parties guilty

Fitzpatrick is hardly the only politician unwilling to listen to the cries of the opposition. President Barack Obama frequents Leno and Letterman to connect with Americans through pop culture and softball questions rather than face the national press corps.

Republican opponents of Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, D-13, have criticized her for a lack of town hall events and debates during campaign season.

The problem runs nationwide, according to The New York Times, which reported that “Though Republicans in recent years have harnessed the political power of these open mic, face-the-music sessions, people from both parties say they are noticing a decline in the number of meetings. They also say they are seeing congressional offices go to greater lengths to conceal when and where the meetings take place.”

Terry Madonna, the Franklin and Marshall College political scientist, is not surprised by politicians maintaining their distance from potential verbal clashes. “So the tendency is to avoid any groups that appear hostile. Yeah, well, welcome to politics.”

Fitzpatrick is likely wary of planned disruptions at his meeting from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has targeted him among 17 House members, according to an internal email CQ Roll Call obtained.

But if anyone tried to turn an event into “Animal House,” the audience would likely turn on the agitator and yield the floor to the representative. If a majority, however, are in favor of a verbal beat-down, perhaps a legislator should rethink his or her policies.

Fitzpatrick said he is not ducking any of his constituents, and has “one of most aggressive schedules of any elected official in the region.”

He said some meetings are designed strictly for one particular town “so I can listen to what people in that particular town have to say.”

Mary Avino of Churchville said she waited eight months for a meeting with Fitzpatrick. He didn’t call her until the day her critical letter to the Bucks County Courier Times appeared. “His office has repeatedly ignored me and made excuses,” she wrote, adding, “we need a representative in Congress who will actually listen to and respect his constituents.”

Avino, who started Bucks Against Gun Violence, said she felt better after what she described as “an extremely effective meeting” with Fitzpatrick.

While saying “I feel very happy with his cooperation,” she said she left him with a bit of advice. “You’re getting a reputation that if you don’t agree with Mike Fitzpatrick he’s not going to listen to you. That’s not a good reputation for a congressman to have.”

Gary Weckselblatt: 215-345-3169; email,; Twitter@gweckselblatt

art, art as social inquiry, Congress, Congressman Fitzpatrick, town halls, US Capitol

“Nothing Is Scheduled As Of Right Now”

08.05.13 | | 1 Comment

My daily calls to Congressman Fitzpatrick’s office for the town hall schedule information for Art As Social Inquiry’s daily log, Tracking Town Halls: Does the First Amendment Matter,  is sometimes met with curt politeness.

“Nothing is scheduled as of right now,” I am often told.  “As of right now,” implies that something could be scheduled 5 minutes, an hour, two hours  from now. The staff technically fulfills their duty by giving me the “correct” information in the 60 seconds I am on the phone with them.

But any thinking person would connect the dots and ask, “Why is getting town hall information from the congressman’s staff so difficult?”  It’s just information like any old movie listing,or the departure and arrival board at Philly International Airport.

Does the congressman not want us to know when town halls are?  And what would be his reasons?

Fitz No Labels

When asked about why we couldn’t know in advance about the August 3 “town hall,” where the congressman shared the stage with a representative from the group, No Labels, the staff told me they put the notice in the newspaper when they knew.

Wink, wink….right?

The town hall was scheduled at a college.  Obviously the space was reserved in advance.  Having helped organize events, I know all kinds of arrangements need to be made in advance — logistics with security, parking and other accommodations. Institutions work on schedules.  A speaker from No Labels had to be booked.

For the congressman’s office to say that the August 3 event at a college was only confirmed when the notice went in the paper on August 2  really insults the intelligence of the average person to the point where one giggles at the silliness of the statement. We cannot run our lives that way, and who would believe that a congressman, a member of the United States Congress with schedulers in Bucks County and Washington D.C., would not know well in advance.

Some at the event even questioned why it was called a “town hall.”  Here is an excerpt from the newspaper coverage:

Fitzpatrick said representing a “more challenging district makes me better representative. I have to listen and respect everyone’s opinion.”

 That comment didn’t fly with everyone in the crowd of about 80 people. Robert Mason of Levittown said he became “very angry” listening to Fitzpatrick. He’s one of several people who have called on the Republican to hold town hall meetings on major topics, including health care, immigration, and Social Security and Medicare reform.

“We’ve been after him daily,” he said. “Today, in an hour and 20 minutes, (by his count) there were six questions from the audience and four from the moderator. That does not represent the main purpose of a town hall. It hardly gives the opposition an opportunity to vent their frustration. Why is (Fitzpatrick) so adverse to talking to constituents with different points of view?”

Clare Finkel showed a reporter a printout of a Fitzpatrick newsletter emailed Friday afternoon that didn’t mention Saturday’s event. “I don’t understand what he’s afraid of,” she said.

So what’s up with the Congressman’s reluctance to have town halls and to let people know about them IN ADVANCE?

Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, art as social inquiry, BrownGold

Alumni In The SPotlight

07.16.13 | | Comment?

2013 SOAR Cover


Theresa’s  high school alma mater, Paul VI HS,featured her work in its alumni magazine, SOAR.

2013 SOAR Alumni Story

Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, art as social inquiry, Congressman Fitzpatrick, town halls

Opponents of Obamacare ~ Not a Good Source for Info

07.16.13 | | Comment?

 This submitted letter-to-the editor was sent to me by a follower of my log of in-person town halls, “Tracking Town Halls: Does the First Amendment Matter?

Tam St. Claire was listening in on a “tele-town hall” when she felt she needed to respond to Congressman Fitzpatrick’s (PA-8) inadequate (and perhaps misleading) response to a constituent’s concern about small businesses and the Affordable Care Act. Tam had no way of jumping in on the conversation to offer the information she gives us in her letter-to-the editor.

(The congressman sometimes has “tele-town halls,” robo-calling to random groups of constituents some of whom get the chance to ask questions. There is no way to notify constituents in advance, we are told.)

I do not believe that most of the politicians in Congress opposed to the healthcare law really know the ins and outs of it.

This recent letter-to-the-editor illustrates the point. Either the writer’s representative, Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, did not know enough about the healthcare law to explain to the caller how Obamacare would actually help her husband’s small business, OR he chose not to share useful information.  

Obamacare is the law of the land. Yes, it’s the LAW!

We cannot rely on politicians for good information about Obamacare. Please write to  if you would like a speaker come to your group (large or small) to explain the healthcare law.


Here is Tam’s letter.

In a recent telephone town hall meeting held by Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, the first caller from Doylestown requested help for her husband’s small business and the high cost for employee health insurance. What the congressman failed to mention is that the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) actually has a program to help small businesses. It is called SHOP Exchange (Small Businesses Health Options Program) that states have an opportunity to set up starting in 2014.

Like the health insurance exchanges for the individual market, SHOP Exchanges are to offer a variety of health insurance plans for small businesses. By pooling these businesses the cost for health insurance will be lower.

 Unfortunately, Pennsylvania has opted for the federally facilitated exchanges for individuals and SHOP. Despite Republican efforts to weaken this act with multiple repeal votes, delays, and cutting funding, the marketplace programs like SHOP that help small businesses will slowly start in 2014 and, hopefully, gradually strengthen.

Small business owners have real challenges and need to know about this relief designed just for them in the new health care law. They also should know about the tax credits small businesses will get for covering their employees under the ACA. If the congressman really cared about helping small businesses, he’d support strengthening the SHOP insurance marketplace. The latest information on SHOP implementation can be found here.

POSTSCRIPT: ASI’s recent letter-to-the-editor further makes the point that politicians opposed to the healthcare law are not good sources of information about Obamacare.  Click link.

Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, art as social inquiry, health savings accounts, healthcare

Art As Social Inquiry Rebuttal

04.30.13 | | Comment?
 Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013 6:00 am


A recent guest opinion about the shortfalls of Obamacare is rife with irony starting with the name of the organization of which the writer is president, “Citizens Council for Health Freedom.” Freedom for whom? Over 60 percent of bankruptcies in this country are due in part or total to medical bills.

There is no patient freedom if one cannot access care. And where is the freedom in going to the emergency room, getting a $14,000 bill and being told you are responsible for $7,000, as just happened to a family member. Care in the United States is heavily rationed by one’s ability to acquire good insurance. Obamacare came about because of this public health crisis.

The long reach of Citizens Council from Minnesota to Bucks County via the guest opinion of our local newspaper is just more political gunfire in a war we are all so tired of. I offer this rebuttal.

The writer makes the point, albeit unwittingly, that Gov. Corbett should expand Medicaid. The Supreme Court made this provision of the Affordable Care Act optional for states. I agree with the writer. We should not have an “entire class of lower-income individuals” left uninsured. Lay that one at the feet of our Pennsylvania governor who refuses to expand Medicaid. Pennsylvania taxpayers will see their share of Medicaid expansion money go to states like the writer’s. Minnesota is covering its low-wage earners by expanding Medicaid.

The writer says, “Experts say more ‘sticker shock’ is coming this summer when insurers release their Obamacare-priced premiums.” Perhaps the “experts” are referring to the price-gouging that could happen before consumer protections kick in. Starting in September insurance companies must justify their premium increases by providing consumers with a “clear disclosure form” justifying the increase. Proposed increases over 10 percent will trigger a more rigorous review by independent experts. The writer would have us believe she thinks this provision of Obamacare does not go far enough. I agree.

And she fails to mention the Medical Loss Ratio provision of the law that requires insurance companies to send rebates to premium-payers if the insurance companies don’t spend 80-85 percent of the premium dollars on actual medical care or care-related services. If insurance companies collect too much, they will have to send out rebate checks.

Today, high deductible health plans (HDHP) are being sold as a way to shift costs to consumers. With HDHPs we pay a premium, and on top of that we need to save thousands of dollars to use for medical bills. Only after we meet that large deductible will the insurance coverage start. High deductible plans require an important understanding of how one can leverage one’s health for financial gain. Obamacare limits the sale of these policies to those under 30 who may be in the best position to leverage their health. (Although I doubt many will fulfill the fiduciary obligation of an HDHP by saving thousands of dollars for a health crisis.) The unfettered sale of HDHPs would leave us with a problem we have today — the under-insured amassing great medical debt because the deductibles are way too high.

The writer gets very technical and is correct when she says that buying insurance cannot be more than 9 ½ percent of the insured employee’s income, and the calculation does not take into consideration the cost of insuring a family. The IRS has taken a very narrow legal interpretation of the statute as we move forward with implementation. No one could have predicted this narrow legal definition, least of all the authors of the law. Many groups are working very hard to change this.

The glitch is easily fixable by Congress but, sadly, a benefit for American families will most likely be used as a political cudgel as the writer has done in her guest opinion. I, for one, will be a strong advocate for American families, and work to have the entire family outlay for premiums be calculated in the percentage of income calculation. We can fix this.

Let us never forget that for-profit insurance companies serve shareholders not patients. If an insurance company can find a way not to pay your medical bills, it will. That’s how profits are made. Obamacare imposes much-needed consumer protections on the health insurance industry.

Theresa BrownGold, New Britain, is a documentary portrait painter who uses art to examine the impact of social issues on real people. She speaks about the health care law and her art project, Art As Social Inquiry, at conferences, churches, senior centers and other venues.

© 2013 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

« Previous Entries