HD 44 Republicans offer differing views on Obamacare - Florida Politics

HD 44 Republicans offer differing views on Obamacare

Updated: Late Thursday John Newstreet issued a statement saying he misspoke about his views on Obamacare, saying he inadvertently reversed the numbers 80 percent and 20 percent when referring to the good and bad.

The four Republicans seeking to win the Aug. 15 primary for the open Florida House District 44 seat in Orange County differed sharply on their views of the Affordable Care Act and what, if anything from it should be salvaged.

In a debate sponsored by the West Orange Republican Women’s Club Thursday, John Newstreet declared that about 80 percent of it was good, but the rest was so bad that it was like sugar and manure.

His allowance for good parts in the deal Republicans typically deride as Obamacare drew sharp contrasts with the other candidates, as Bobby Olszewski and Bruno Portigliatti declared the whole law to be bad, while acknowledging a couple of positives; and Dr. Usha Jain, an urgent care physician, replied, “Obamacare is not for me. I never accepted Obamacare.”

Newstreet, president and chief executive officer of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce, later issued a statement saying he misspoke and reversed his numbers. He meant to say 20 percent of the Affordable Care Act was good, and 80 percent bad, he said later.

“Today, I switched my percentages as I spoke about Obamacare. Meaningless rhetorical percentages aside, I was clear later in the forum I want Obamacare repealed,” his statement read.

In the debate, regardless of the numbers, he spoke of both good and bad in the current health care law.

“I think anybody will tell you, 80 percent of it is really, very good. And it’s helped,” Newstreet said. “And about 20 percent? You know, you can’t put sugar in manure and sweeten it up. So that’s how it was handled. The 20 percent has absolutely overshadowed the 80 percent that is good.

“The good?” he continued, “I think is preexisting conditions. The fact that some folks can stay on their parents plan through 26 because they have a need. This helps make sure their health. What the state is looking at, we are looking at improving outcomes and lowering costs so that consumers have access to health care. That is where Obamacare has failed. Instead of a free market, they tried to manipulate the markets. That is where it failed. So I think the state needs to get back to allowing the markets to work. So finding little things and big things, like preventive medicine, like telemedicine, like direct primary care.”

Olszewski, a small businessman speaking next, also took time to praise  pre-existing conditions to be covered, and for preventative medicine, both covered in Obamacare, but started out blasting it.

“Obamacare is an absolute failure. It has made our health care costs rise, and we need to do everything we can to make sure we get back on track to providing health care for our citizens through free-market principles,” Olszewski said. “There is no doubt that by getting everyone back to the table, and that includes physicians, hospitals, providers, insurers, we can figure this out. Competition does make us all stronger.

“There is no question that by opening up the borders on insurance is an easy way to solve that,” he continued. “And at the same level we can walk hand-in-hand with our conservative, free-market thinking counterparts at the national level, because competition is a wonderful thing, and being able to provide for our citizens health care is one of the most critical things we can do as government, and at the same time we need to embrace our free market principals and repeal Obamacare and get it right.”

“I am 100 percent in agreement with that,” said businessman Portigliatti, speaking next.

“It has increased costs for the consumers, it has driven a lot of people out of business, a lot of doctors out of business,” Portigliatti said.

He also touted the pre-existing conditions coverage as something that needs to be continued, and touted telemedicine.

That exchange came closest to bringing out real differences between the four candidates. Earlier questions on abortion, prayer in schools, Bright Futures scholarships, and medical marijuana drew out mostly agreement.

On abortion, all four candidates declared themselves to be stedfast pro-life, and all vowed to oppose late-term abortions and government funding for abortions.

“I have made it a top-priority in my campaign,” Portigliatti noted, holding up a campaign mailer declaring such. “I completely oppose any health care options that include abortion. I support a ban after the 20th week of pregnancy.”

“If you don’t support life, what else is there to debate?” Olszewski said.

Newstreet spoke of a niece born seriously prematurely. “I’ve seen the advances that have brought her to health. I am absolutely, unequivocally pro-life.”

Jain, an immigrant from India, declared, “I am very much pro-life. I”m a vegetarian. This is my belief. I want to make sure you know my beliefs. For me, I don’t kill anybody, anything.”


Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.


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