Welch And N.H. Rep Annie Kuster Want 'Solutions Over Politics' In Health Care Reform

Jul 21, 2017

Vermont and New Hampshire Representatives were in the Upper Valley Friday to talk about ways to compromise on health care reform in Congress.

Vermont Rep. Peter Welch calls the stand-still between Republicans and Democrats in Congress a fever.

“We have got to break the fever in Washington and that fever is where the Washington Republicans have been taking the position that there's nothing right with the Affordable Care Act and too many Democrats on the other side have been in a defensive crouch saying there's nothing wrong,” Welch said in West Lebanon on Friday. “You know, a confident nation doesn't deny problems, it solves problems,” he added.

That is why he and New Hampshire Rep. Annie Kuster are coming together to create what they call "solutions over politics."

Kuster and Welch think a place to find common ground in fixing Obamacare – rather than replacing it – is in individual markets.

Rep. Kuster says that's a place where Republicans are concerned with the current health care plan.

“This is people who are not covered by insurance by their employer – think about small business owners, contractors, people who are self-employed,” she explained standing on hot late morning sun. “It's only six to eight percent of the population, but the reason it’s important is that those are the stories we're hearing of people getting a 35 percent increase in their premium,” she said.

"This is people who are not covered by insurance by their employer, think about small business owners, contractors, people who are self-employed. — Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H.

This year, Republicans in the House and Senate have been pushing measures to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as ObamaCare. The issue continues to put Republicans and Democrats at a stalemate.

The Congressional Budget Office has reported that 22 million would likely lose health insurance should the plan to repeal the ACA be enacted.

That's why Kuster and Welch say finding common ground is urgent.

Rep. Peter Welch and Rep. Annie Kuster speak with small business owners and residents from Vermont and New Hampshire about their healthcare cost concerns.
Credit Rebecca Sananes / Vermont Public Radio

Rebecca Courtemanche, a White River Junction resident, spoke to the two representatives. She says the Affordable Care Act is not working for her and her family, but she's not ready to say it needs to be repealed either.

“I do think there are things that have to be changed with it absolutely,” she said of the current health care law. But she added “So how do you get everybody to get together to make it cost effective for everybody and I don't know – I would love to see that happen but they've got their work cut out for them.”

Courtemanche is a mother of three, in between answering questions about complicated health insurance issues, she rallied her children standing in the small crowd.

Her husband is an independent contractor and she works part-time as a dental assistant. Courtemanche wishes she could work more, but the irony is that working more hours would mean health insurance would be too expensive for her five-person family.  

“So if my husband is making good money, but I make too much money because I'd be the one to kick it over that line what changes is how much we get for federal subsidies,” she explained, “so we could be out of the point where we don't get any assistance at all paying for our premiums.”

Without those federal subsidies, Courtemanche says she would have to pay around $700 a month out of pocket for her family to be insured.

Kuster and Welch both agree there is a steep road ahead in finding common ground across the aisle in Congress to push forward health care reforms.

But for now the representatives are crossing the Connecticut River to try and work together.