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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Inslee, Washington Republicans spar over how to react to Obamacare changes

OLYMPIA – Courtney Anderson, of the Spokane Valley, explains how the Affordable Care Act allowed her to have the insurance that covered her cancer treatment during a press conference with Gov. Jay Inslee on Feb. 20, 2017. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – Legislative Republicans accused Gov. Jay Inslee of trying to scare people with the possible effects of repealing Obamacare. Inslee shot back that they should get fellow Republicans in Washington, D.C., to sign a pledge not to do anything to the law without a guarantee a replacement will be implemented.

Inslee is trying to scare the public with a prediction that the state could lose more than $2 billion in federal funding if the law, known more formally as the Affordable Care Act, is repealed, said Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville.

The law has not delivered on promises to lower health insurance costs and clearly needs reform, he said. But no one knows yet what Congress will approve to replace the law and the Legislature should wait to see what that entails.

“We’re not screaming fire in the theater yet,” Schoesler said at a weekly press conference held by Republicans. “We’re not into scaring people for the sake of scaring them.”

Two hours later, Inslee was at a separate press conference for the Washington Community Action Network, and insisted the state could lose up to $2.7 billion, because that’s what the federal government provides for the expansion of Medicaid and other services under the act. Congress could repeal the current law, force some 750,000 state residents off their current plans, then later offer them something much less.

The state budget couldn’t find the money to make up the difference, Inslee said.

“Let’s make sure it’s a real replacement, not a bait and switch,” he said. Congressional Republicans should sign a pledge that they won’t repeal the law unless a full, fair replacement takes effect the same day.

“If they do that, it will stop a lot of this debate,” he said.

Joining Inslee at the press conference was Courtney Anderson, 23, of the Spokane Valley, who said her life was saved because Obamacare allows her to stay on her parents’ insurance until she’s 26. Last year she was diagnosed with stage two colon cancer, and her surgery and treatment was covered.

Because she also had cancer when she was 17 months old, Anderson said she would have been unable to afford coverage on her own because of that precondition. But with Obamacare, she can’t be denied insurance.

“It’s time to speak up and tell (Republicans in Congress) we exist,” Anderson said.