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Friday, February 02, 2018 1:00 am

Virtues of ACA extolled during Tritch's forum

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Democratic congressional candidate Courtney Tritch talked little Thursday at her town hall meeting on health care. But her choice of panelists spoke volumes.

Three physicians took turns either defending provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act and its expansion of Medicaid, or suggesting ways to improve the law – with one panelist advocating for a universal, single-payer medical insurance system.

Tritch told an audience of about 100 people at Calhoun Street Soups, Salads and Spirits that because she is insured through the ACA as a self-employed marketing consultant, “This is a very personal issue for me.” 

Retinal specialist Dr. Jonathan Walker made note of the battle between Democrats and Republicans over the government's role in expanding and subsidizing access to affordable health care. The GOP-controlled Congress has tried to repeal the ACA and late last year eliminated its mandate that all Americans carry medical insurance or pay a tax penalty.

“We're seeing the world through two different lenses,” said Walker, the proponent of a single-payer insurance plan. “One option would be to have every American get diabetes for about four months. Then our health care system would be fixed in a microsecond.”

Walker said the uninsured “get sicker, they use up resources, they can't work. It turns out it costs us a lot more to keep people uninsured than to simply give them insurance.”

Dr. Tony GiaQuinta, a pediatrician, said, “We're setting our sights too small when we say insuring our entire population is not our goal.”

Obstetrician/gynecologist Dr. Kay Johnson-Keys, who is the Wells County health officer, said insuring all Americans would require federal government leaders who are “committed to making it happen. ... And we don't have leadership that agrees with that.”

“Not yet,” Tritch said firmly, drawing applause and cheers for the apparent reference to her candidacy.

Tritch is among four announced candidates for the Democratic nomination in northeast Indiana's 3rd Congressional District. The others are David Roach, John Roberson and Tommy Schrader, the party's nominee in 2016.

The winner of the May 8 Democratic primary election will likely face first-term Republican Rep. Jim Banks in the Nov. 6 general election. Banks is unopposed in the Republican primary with a week before Indiana's filing deadline for candidates.

Banks had town hall meetings last week in Fort Wayne, Huntington and Angola. Tritch said Thursday she plans to have more of her own, including one on education.

Tritch, who with her health care panelists took questions from the audience, said the federal government should have the ability to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. She seemed wary of the Republican proposal that would require Medicaid recipients to find jobs.

“I understand that yes, if you can work, you should work. I agree with that. But that doesn't work for every one,” she said, mentioning people who have to care for children or elderly parents.

The panelists urged greater transparency in medical pricing, talked about high administrative costs for care providers and stressed the importance of prenatal, childhood and preventive care. 

bfrancisco@jg.net