Saturday saw United States Vice-President Mike Pence and Florida Governor Rick Scott talking about what Pence called “the Obamacare nightmare” with small business owners in Jacksonville.
Scott, who closed out the news week reprising a familiar call to allow the states to administer Medicaid via block grants, has worked closely with President Donald Trump and his administration on possible alternatives to the Affordable Care Act.
While the GOP line is “repeal and replace Obamacare,” finding bill language that offers comfort to moderate Republicans in the Senate and the Freedom Caucus in the House has proven challenging, making promotional media stops like this one for the vice-president a necessity as the Trump administration sets the stage for a House vote on health care next week.
Though support for the current bill may be shaky elsewhere in Florida, in Northeast Florida “repeal and replace” are the watchwords.
After a roundtable event with selected small-business leaders, the show for cameras and media commenced: the highlight, of course, was VP Pence, who Gov. Scott introduced as having stood with him in the health care battle since 2009.
Pence hyped the crowd for a couple of minutes, thanking the other speakers and extolling the virtues of Florida, pivotal on “the path to make America great again.”
“It was quite a campaign, wasn’t it? And it’s been quite an administration.”
After discussing Trump’s “broad shoulders” and other crowd-pleasing ephemera, including his first job as a gas station attendant in his family’s store, Pence eventually pivoted to policy
“We know that when small business is strong, America is strong,” Pence said, describing the president’s “roll back of reams of red tape” and his work to “end illegal immigration – once and for all.”
“Businesses are already responding to President Trump’s ‘buy American, hire American’ vision,” Pence said, vowing tax cuts “across the board” and restraint of “unelected bureaucrats” and other talking points.
Pence pivoted from the crowdpopping lines to reference the Pulse attack last year, a function of “radical Islamic terrorism in this country.”
The wall will be built. And illegal immigrant criminals will be “off the streets of this country.” And “we will rebuild our military,” Pence said.
From there, Pence assured the crowd that “the Obamacare nightmare is about to end.”
Obamacare, said Pence, is a minefield of broken promises, and the VP has heard heartrending stories about the “hard choices” small businesses have made.
“It was a heartbreaking conversation,” Pence said.
Premiums: up 25 percent across the country.
A third of the country has one company available from which to choose.
And, said Pence, enrollment is down year over year.
“Florida’s actually a textbook example of what’s wrong with Obamacare,” Pence said, citing premiums up 19 percent year over year.
“Florida can’t afford Obamacare anymore,” Pence said to applause.
Referring to the business hosting the event, Pence noted that hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have been spent otherwise have been spent attempting to comply with this “failed” law.
“The core flaw of Obamacare was this notion that you could order every American to buy health insurance whether they need it or not,” Pence said.
The Trump alternative: “individual responsibility” and reform targeted to the state level, including expanded Health Savings Accounts and tax credits to facilitate buying private insurance.
Those with pre-existent conditions and kids under the age of 26, meanwhile, will be protected under the American Health Care Act, Pence said.
Pence spent some time talking about “engagement with Congress” to improve the bill, a seeming acknowledgement of issues.
As well, Pence vowed to allow “states like Florida” the ability to have a block grant to administer their plans, and a “work requirement” for coverage.
“President Trump supports the bill 100 percent, and we all do,” Pence said. “A new era for federal/state Medicaid partnership has begun.”
“State solutions,” Pence said, are the best way forward for Florida.
As well, Pence added that Americans will “have the freedom to buy health insurance across state lines,” via “dynamic marketplace.”
“It won’t be long until you see Flo and that little lizard on TV ads,” Pence quipped.
While “it’s going to be a battle in Washington,” Pence called for “every Republican in Florida” to support the administration’s moves to “repeal and replace Obamacare.”
The VP had local and state support on hand.
U.S. Congressman John Rutherford, who flew down from D.C. with VP Pence, opined that “the American dream is being damaged by Obamacare … a policy that drives up costs and strangles small businesses.”
“We need a better way … we must repeal and replace Obamacare with a market-based health care policy that will reduce costs and increase consumer access to health care.”
CMS Administrator Seema Verna, introduced by Rutherford, likewise described the “burden of health care costs and overregulation” on “small businesses.”
“With the support of President Trump, we’re going to undo the damage done by Obamacare,” Verna said, also vowing to let states handle administering Medicare and have “freedom from Washington’s one-size-fits-all approach” – echoing Gov. Scott.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, introduced by Verna, said “this is really simple. The President and Vice President told us they’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare and that’s what happens now.”
Gov. Scott, introduced by Curry, noted that “Obamacare was sold on a lie. A complete lie … choices have gone down, prices have gone up.”
“We’re going to change that,” Scott said. “Obamacare’s on a death spiral. Prices have just gone out of control.”
“We had to sue the Obama Administration for our low-income pool because we didn’t expand Medicaid,” Scott noted.