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Friday, April 21, 2017 by Sommer Brugal

Nancy Pelosi discusses impact of Affordable Care Act on Austin

U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Lloyd Doggett hosted a roundtable with a group of Austin-based medical professionals, musicians and technology experts Thursday morning.

Discussion at the meeting, held at the Clinical Education Center at Brackenridge, addressed the impacts of the Affordable Care Act in Austin, personal stories of survival and ways to support and improve the law. The roundtable took place after Pelosi and Doggett toured the Dell Seton Medical Center’s teaching hospital.

“I just want to say how impressed I was at the Dell Seton Medical Center,” Pelosi began. “Every element (of the hospital) is about collaboration; it’s about respect (and) the dignity of all its patients.”

Pelosi said the hospital was a model for the country, and the following discussion wasn’t solely about health care in the country but about the good health of America.

“This isn’t just a meeting; it’s a continuing, ongoing (conversation),” she said.

According to Pelosi, the Affordable Care Act is meant to encourage people to reach their full potential and give them the liberty and ability to pursue their happiness. Austin, she said, is a prime example of people doing just that.

Local musician Daisy O’Connor echoed Pelosi’s words, saying she’s able to continue making music because of the Affordable Care Act. She had been in a car accident a few months prior.

“I’ve been able to do extensive follow-up care and physical therapy thanks to the Affordable Care Act at Seton,” O’Connor explained. As a musician and self-employed individual, she said she couldn’t imagine how difficult life would be without affordable health care.

A few other roundtable members recounted stories of survival, personal and otherwise. Mark Hernandez, chief medical officer for the Community Care Collaborative, explained how the Affordable Care Act has affected those on the other side of the table.

He said the impact of the law in Travis County is immeasurable in terms of what doctors are now able to accomplish. “It means that we actually get to see people sooner,” Hernandez explained. “It means we can diagnose cancer when we can still do something about it.”

Hernandez said the Affordable Care Act has led to a higher number of individuals creating therapeutic relationships with their primary care providers and a greater ability to provide for the uninsured.

Since the law’s rollout in 2014, Insure Central Texas has worked to enroll uninsured individuals into health insurance programs through the federal marketplace. Elizabeth Colvin, director of Insure Central Texas, said that number is up to 22,000 individuals.

Though the discussion’s overall tone conveyed support and gratitude for the ACA, a few individuals brought up some of the law’s drawbacks.

One audience member expressed concern for the population that would have benefited from the Medicaid expansion, a policy Texas neglected to approve.

A roundtable participant, Aurora Harris, the Southern Partnerships manager for Young Invincibles’ southern office, explained various state and federal policies she thinks could help improve the law. She spoke specifically about the enrollment of young people and the overall affordability of the ACA.

“On the state level, of course, there’s Medicaid expansion,” she explained, as the majority of people in the gap are young people. When it comes to reducing the costs of the ACA, Harris suggested looking at policies that would increase a tax credit for young, working adults and establish a special enrollment period that could encourage pregnant women to enroll.

Above all, though, Harris highlighted the importance of simply educating the public about the ACA and the benefits it has. The sentiment was reiterated by a number of participants throughout the roundtable discussion, including Pelosi.

She said the more people who know about the law, the more people who are enrolled, and the more people understand what it is, the better.

Pelosi said there’s more work to be done, but she encouraged the audience to push forward. She said affordable health care is a right for all, not for just a few. It is a tough fight, she acknowledged, but one worth embarking on.

“Help push open that gate, and be proud of any wounds you make in the meantime,” she said.

Rendering courtesy of Seton Healthcare Family.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

University of Texas Dell Medical School: The UT medical school under construction in downtown Austin near the proposed innovation district.

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