Ulster County forum blasts Trumpcare

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Hein (podium) with Commissioner of Health and Mental Health, Dr. Carol Smith and Director of
Patient Services, Nereida Veytia (right)

KINGSTON – Opponents of the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) packed the Ulster County legislative chambers Tuesday night, to speak against the bill, at a forum organized by County Executive Michael Hein.
Republicans in Congress wish to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known as Obamacare, replacing it with a more conservative AHCA, nicknamed Trumpcare. Hein said that Tuesday’s forum transcript would be submitted into the record.
A first vote on Trumpcare could come on Thursdsay, with passage uncertain at this point.  Not all congressional Republicans are onboard.
Out of nearly four dozen speakers in Kingston, none expressed support for the new bill.
The hospital system in the state and across the country is in “really
dire straits,” said Steven Kelley, president and CEO of Ellenville
Regional Hospital.  “We are the safety net at the end of the
line for all of the emergencies across the country. If this happens, I
think we will see a lot of closures. This is a very difficult time for
all hospitals.”
Kelley predicted many hospital closures if Trumpcare is enacted.
“It’s one of the most base and disgusting things that we’ve seen,” County Legislator Hector Rodriguez, a Democrat, said of the AHCA bill, “because at the end of the day it’s money. It’s the insurance companies. You don’t matter; money matters. But we care about our families, people with pre-existing conditions, who have cancer and other diseases that can be treated. And yet you want to go and take that away. The elderly, who will have to pay so much more money for health care.”  
Several other speakers, including Pam Krinsky of Highland and former New Paltz Supervisor Susan Zimet, advocated for a single payer bill pending in the state legislature.
 “Single payer would provide universal, comprehensive health care to all New Yorkers, without premiums, co-pays, deductibles, or limiting your provider,” said Zimet who si also a former county legislator. “It is a godsend to us, Trump and the Republicans are doing us a favor. We will get single payer in New York because of them.”
Many gave personal stories of sickness and death, some averted by Obamacare, others more tragic. Gardiner resident Tim Hunter, who lost his wife to leukemia, said that under AHCA, his wife would be in a high-risk pool. 
 “They regulate coverage,” Hunter said. “It’s just another name for death panels.” He criticized Republican Congressman John Faso for supporting AHCA. “Americans will die. How could you possibly have that on your conscience?” Hunter asked.
Antonella Pechtel, speaking on behalf of the New York State Nurses Association, said the Collins and Faso amendment to AHCA would cost New York $7.2 billion in cuts. “Do you understand the devastation that would cause?” Pechtel asked. “There are over 22 hospitals that would be closed automatically.”
Hein issued an executive order last week, calling for public comments to be transcribed and submitted in opposition to AHCA. “The order asks for impacts to the health care system. I want to know what it means to our hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, health care workers, that help so many. I want to know the impact to our county budget, and our taxpayers,” he explained.
“This isn’t about statistics, and clearly not about rhetoric or politics,” the county executive said.  “This is about people, about making sure that our grandmothers are cared for, and our children. It’s about the kind of country we want to be, and the people we hope to be. We are putting at risk who we are as Americans.”