ITHACA, N.Y. — With a unanimous resolution Wednesday, Common Council made it clear the city opposes the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick and council members said they will send the resolution directly to Congressman Tom Reed, who has supported repealing the Affordable Care Act for years.
In a news release a week before President Trump’s inauguration, Reed reiterated his support for repealing the act. However, he also said he is willing to listen to residents of the 23rd Congressional District, which includes Ithaca and Tompkins County.
“We are fighting to hold individuals and municipal governments harmless and protect them from unintended or negative impacts from any changes. Regardless, we must get costs down, which will require transparency and competition,” Reed said in a news release. He also said he supports popular provisions of “Obamacare” including guaranteed coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and expanded coverage for children up to age 26.
More than 10 members of the public, who attended the packed Common Council meeting Wednesday, voiced their support for the resolution.
Ann Sullivan, a volunteer for Indivisible NY, said if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, 8,000 people are at risk of losing their health insurance in Tompkins County. People could also lose things like free mammograms and colonoscopies, Sullivan said.
In an interview before the meeting, Sullivan said repealing the act “does not make moral sense, civic sense, and it does not make dollars and cents sense.”
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Introduced by alderperson Seph Murtagh, the resolution said nearly 3 million New Yorkers could lose their health insurance, including thousands in Tompkins County. The resolution further stated that if the act is repealed, “it could deal a costly blow to New York State counties, which stand to lose $600 million in federal funding if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, potentially contributing to a rise in property tax burden for Tompkins County residents.”
Opposition to repealing the Affordable Care Act has also been voiced outside of city hall. On Jan. 13, several people protested a repeal outside of Reed’s office in Ithaca. Legislators also weighed in on the issue from both sides recently, and a resolution is being considered to oppose a repeal. Legislature has supported single-payer health care in the past.
Liz Weissbrot, vice president for patient services at Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes, spoke in support of the Affordable Care Act. She said nationally, a repeal without replacement will mean the loss of affordable and accessible health care for millions.
“The purpose of the ACA is to provide a path to health insurance for all Americans and in our community, at our clinics, that has translated to greater to access to family planning services with no cost sharing, including life-saving cancer screenings, greater access to pregnancy-related care with no cost sharing, and that includes maternity care and breastfeeding supplies, and greater access to the FDA-approved contraceptives with no cost sharing,” Weissbrot said.
Speaking for the board of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Finger Lakes, Brigitt Schaffner, of Ithaca, urged Common Council to oppose the repeal of the Affordable Care Act without an equal or better replacement. She said before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could set arbitrary limits on annual care, exclude behavioral health benefits or deny coverage altogether.
Shaffner said most people develop mental illnesses in their late teens or early 20s.
“Before the Affordable Care Act, it was difficult for people in this age group to afford health insurance. With the ACA, they could stay on their parents’ insurance until they turn 26. When people do not have access to mental health care or substance use care, many seek help in emergency departments where they have to wait for days, even weeks for psychiatric care. Others end up out of school, out of work, in jail, on the streets, or they die by suicide,” Shaffner said.
Ithaca resident Carl Foyer said he is lucky to be at an age that entitles him to Medicare coverage, but said “it is not widely known however how Medicare recipients like myself will be negatively impacted by repeal of the ACA.”
He said if the act is repealed, seniors will pay more for drugs because provisions in the Affordable Care Act increased drug discounts for seniors. He said seniors will also lose preventive care coverage, including pre-cancer screenings, blood pressure screenings, wellness visits and vaccines.
Foyer said he wants Congressman Reed to hear loud and clear “that we want him to oppose repealing the ACA.”
Read the resolution:
Featured image by Jolene Almendarez/Ithaca Voice