Columbus Telegram: Fortenberry: 'Doing nothing' on Health Care not Acceptable

Aug 3, 2017
In The News

COLUMBUS — U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry has heard from people with both positive and negative experiences under the Affordable Care Act.

Letters from two of the Republican congressman’s constituents he shared Wednesday during a town hall meeting in Columbus highlight how the law has helped and hurt Americans.

One letter was written by a farmer named Scott who noted that his insurance costs rose under the health care law approved by the Obama administration. Another from a woman named Catherine, who was previously uninsured, called the Affordable Care Act a lifesaver.

“Who’s right? Is it Scott or is it Catherine? They are both right,” Fortenberry told a crowd of about 90 people inside the Columbus City Council Chambers.

Most of the more than hour-long meeting focused on health care.

Fortenberry, who represents Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District, also fielded questions from the standing-room-only crowd during the local stop, one of six town hall meetings he scheduled this week.

He said both parties must come together to fix the “broken” health care system by replacing it with a model that lowers costs while protecting the vulnerable.

“Republicans and Democrats are going to have to own this together,” he said.

When asked about the subsidies he receives to pay for his health care coverage and whether he'd be willing to take a cut, Fortenberry said no because he needs it to support his family.

The congressman said nothing changed for him as a federal employee under the Affordable Care Act, except he is now required to get his insurance through the marketplace in the District of Columbia instead of Nebraska.

“I get the same subsidy, basically, that any federal worker gets, which is about 70 percent, and I’m confined to the D.C. exchange,” he said.

Fortenberry was pressed to explain why he voted for the House version of a health care bill.

He said the bill had innovative and problematic pieces. He voted in favor of the plan to “move the system along to try to get to a better place.”

“I think doing nothing is not acceptable. I told everyone that in the beginning of all this, that I’m not going to do nothing,” Fortenberry said.

He said health care is more than just financing. It is also about delivering those services, and innovation is needed.

Social Security was brought up by a 34-year-old working father who was concerned the program will dry up.

If nothing changes, Fortenberry said, the benefits offered through Social Security could be reduced, but won't go away entirely.

“This is a very important program that I think we ought to protect and nurture and strengthen,” Fortenberry said, adding that he benefited from Social Security after his father passed away when he was a child.

There are ideas on the table to address Social Security, he said, but it won’t be dealt with immediately.

“Government tends to focus on only what’s in front of it rather than what’s down the road, because it’s very hard, honestly, politically to deal with something that hasn’t happened yet,” he said.

Other issues addressed in the town hall were funding for the arts, trade, tax reform and immigration.

“When you have chaos and disorder at your border, you can’t have a just and orderly immigration system. Border security is a priority for me and it needs to be a priority for the nation,” Fortenberry said.

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