Democrats Tout Tucsonan As Obamacare Success


by Colton Gavin, Cronkite News Service

Laid off and with a pre-existing medical condition, Tucson resident Sue Voelker said it was a struggle to get health insurance — until the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Voelker, on a conference call Tuesday with state Democrats and a White House official, said that under “Obamacare” she was able to sign up for a Gold Plan policy at the same price as lesser coverage that had previously been offered to her, and that it has not limited her on the doctors she can see.

“I have a lot of doctors,” said Voelker, an information technology consultant who suffers from Marfan’s syndrome. “It’s the same group (of doctors) I have been going through.”

Voelker’s success in getting registered in a red state like Arizona was held out by the Democrats as an emblem of the progress made under Obamacare at the end of 2013. Voelker was joined on the call by state Sen. Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson, state Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, and David Simas, a deputy advisor at the White House.


Photo by Emilie Eaton/Cronkite News Service

Despite Democrats’ claims of improvement, U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, insisted that the Affordable Care Act is still a “complete disaster.”

Simas said national health care enrollment in December was more than 1.8 million, nearly five times the enrollment in October and November combined.

Arizona had more than 9,000 people sign up in December.

But where Democrats saw gains, at least one Republican congressman from the state said the numbers were nothing to brag about.

“Arizona’s population is more than 6.5 million, yet a measly 28,000 Arizonans purchased health care plans on the exchange” since it began in October, said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott in an e-mailed statement.

The statement noted that 36 percent of the Arizona enrollees are between 55 and 64 years old, and that the program needs more younger people to keep health insurance premiums from rising further. Gosar pointed to a Prescott woman who testified to a House committee that her monthly premiums rose $800 under the act, which she feared might force the family to sell its home and cars to make ends meet.

“This law is a complete disaster, which must be repealed and replaced with a free-market, patient-centered alternative,” Gosar said in his statement.

Simas conceded that just one in three Arizonans enrolled so far is under age 35. But he said a strategy of “constant outreach, repetition and engagement” has started to bear fruit, noting that there have now been 11 million phone calls and 53 million visits to the health care Web site.

Simas also pointed to efforts to boost youth enrollment in the program by getting as many athletes and celebrities as possible to endorse enrollment. He said Feb. 15 has been designated National Youth Enrollment Day in hopes of gaining massive sign-ups.

Tovar, a cancer survivor, said she was elated to be in Washington for the passage of the health care act, saying it could give all Arizonans the opportunity for health care that she had.

Gallego also emphasized that before the passage of the ACA nearly 129 million Americans had their health care coverage threatened due to a pre-existing condition — people like Voelker and her Marfan’s, a genetic disorder that affects connective tissue. The act has changed that, Simas said.

“Every person in Arizona who wants coverage will be able to sign up for that coverage,” he said. “It is not about Democrats or Republicans. It is not about the Washington debates. It is about making sure everyone in Arizona gets affordable care.”


don evans 2 years, 12 months ago

“Every person in Arizona who wants coverage will be able to sign up for that coverage,” he said. “It is not about Democrats or Republicans. It is not about the Washington debates. It is about making sure everyone in Arizona gets affordable care.” And, it's about getting somebody else to pay for it. How many of the Obamacare sign up's have actually paid for their sign up into the Exchange's? How many are already on Medicaid? Just minor points to address, what a crock.......


Nancy Volz 2 years, 12 months ago

You must not have any health issues as others do. No one should have to lose what they have worked for - their homes, for example - because they have a chronic illness or cancer or whatever. We all pay taxes for things we don't "use." Like paying school taxes for folks who do not have children.


Michael Alexander 2 years, 12 months ago

Hi Nancy... I'm sure Don can speak for himself, but it occurs to me that you may have completely missed the point that he was making - not that providing affordable health care to all Americans is a bad thing, but that the current system, Obamacare, is simply not the answer, and that it cannot nor will it ever be if its method of finance remains as it is currently structured.

I'm no math whiz, and I'm certainly not an insurance industry "expert," but it only seems sensible to me that if, as the actual figures reflect, the vast majority of enrollees are costing their insurance companies more than the government is paying (as is the case with Medicare), these insurance companies will have no recourse other than to dramatically increase premiums on everyone in the very near future, or go out of business.

I'm sure that, like me, you followed the development of this entitlement before it was passed by Congress and signed into law, so I probably don't need to tell you that there were other plans submitted to Congress for debate that were never even considered, plans that aimed at controlling the rate of increase in the cost of delivering health care, that addressed the health care needs of the poor, and did so without requiring a wholesale makeover of the health insurance industry.

In that these alternate plans proposed to provide a safety net of coverage for those who need it the most without bankrupting the industry, the economy or the treasury, and in light of recent real-world developments resulting in the "awakening" of some of Obamacare's previously most ardent supporters, I pray that we just might see a much less partisan re-examination of the issue back in DC, with an eye toward coming up with a genuine solution to the real problems, rather than a demonstrably flawed and quirky gimmick to redistribute wealth and ensure further division of the population at large.

Then, we might all not be healthy, but happy, too... happy that the taxes we all pay are going toward an efficient, effective and worthwhile endeavor.


Nancy Volz 2 years, 12 months ago

I did not miss Don's point. I have read his opinions on this topic before. IMO, he does not want to pay for others' insurance coverage or medical costs.


Mel Mevis 2 years, 12 months ago

Personal stories are needed, not the hype.

My daughter (38 yr old) used the Exchange. Her insurance costs are $300 a month cheaper for more comprehensive coverage. That without a subside.

The only roll that the goverment played in the rate for her policy was providing a larger pool of insured. If you took Insurance 101 you would know the size of the insured pool spreads the risk resulting in lower premium.


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