Joshua Jones, chief physician officer for Olympic Medical Physicians, tells a group of about 150 people who attended a Clallam County Democrats health care forum Sunday that the Affordable Care Act helped residents get health insurance. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Democrats debate future after Obamacare at Port Angeles health care forum

PORT ANGELES — Democrats decried Republican efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act during a standing-room-only health care forum at the Port Angeles branch of the North Olympic Library System.

Some urged residents to stand up against the repeal of the ACA. Others said the repeal is a done deal and it’s time to create a better health care system.

The forum was hosted by the Clallam County Democrats and was one of more than 70 rallies across the country Sunday to take a stand for the ACA.

This comes just days after the U.S. House of Representatives started the process of repealing the law with a budget resolution Friday.

Dr. Joshua Jones, chief physician officer for Olympic Medical Physicians, told the group Sunday the ACA has worked in Clallam County and that its repeal would cause thousands of local residents to lose health insurance.

He said because of the ACA and Medicaid expansion in the state, about 10,000 people acquired health insurance.

“The Affordable Care Act is vital for our county,” he said.

Though he called the ACA a step in the right direction, he cautioned that it was far from perfect.

“[Medicare] cuts were part of the ACA and nobody is talking about those cuts being part of the repeal and ransack,” he said.

Dr. Mathew Maxwell, CEO of North Olympic Healthcare Network, told the group the ACA is what made it possible for the privately-owned Family Medicine of Port Angeles to transform into NOHN.

The ACA made grants available that allowed it to switch to the Community Health Center model, he said.

That allowed NOHN to take on 2,300 new patients.

He said with the ACA, local uninsured patient rates drooped from 18 percent to 7 percent.

“The Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction and we should not go backward,” he said.

“If the Republicans are successful in what they’re trying to do … we’re going to see huge uninsured rates again.”

Dr. Gerald Stephanz of Volunteers in Medicine of the Olympics, which sees people who are under insured or have no insurance, said it’s very clear what’s going to happen: the Republicans will repeal the law. After that though, everything is in the air.

“If you’re holding up on a medical problem, you might want to make that appointment this year,” he said. “The horse is out of the barn, the ACA is going away. It’s done.”

What’s unknown is what it’s replacement is going to be.

Jones urged those who attended the forum, which he called an “echo chamber,” to talk to people who have different opinions once they left the forum. He said that while doctors on the panel had a unified message, there are many doctors across the country who despise the ACA.

“We do not represent the majority of physicians in this country,” he said.

State Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, who moderated the event, said he was impressed with the number of people who attended the forum.

“This is a powerful day,” he said. “This is a loud statement.”

Chapman told the group he doesn’t understand how other elected officials feel OK with stripping health insurance from their constituents while still receiving health care themselves.

He said while he is on the taxpayers’ payroll, he doesn’t want benefits his own constituents can’t have.

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

Michael Maxwell, CEO for North Olympic Health Network, tells a group of about 150 people who attended a Clallam County Democrats health care forum Sunday that the Affordable Care Act helped NOHN take on 2,300 more patients. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

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