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Congressmen hold field hearing on Obamacare in Gainesville

Rep. Rob Woodall presides over proceedings

U.S. Reps. Rob Woodall, Doug Collins and Jack Kingston, all Republicans from Georgia, participate in a field hearing of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight in Gainesville Monday. The hearing was the second of four planned across the country to hear from constituents about the impacts of the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. Reps. Rob Woodall, Doug Collins and Jack Kingston, all Republicans from Georgia, participate in a field hearing of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight in Gainesville Monday. The hearing was the second of four planned across the country to hear from constituents about the impacts of the Affordable Care Act.

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About 200 people turned out for a field hearing of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight in Gainesville Monday. The hearing was the second of four planned across the country to hear from constituents about the impacts of the Affordable Care Act.

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About 200 people turned out Monday for a Gainesville field hearing of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, conducted by U.S. Rep.. The hearing was the second of four planned across the country to hear from constituents about the impacts of the Affordable Care Act.

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Gwinnett businessman Raymer Sale, left, prepares to testify at a congressional field hearing of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight in Gainesville Monday. The hearing was the second of four planned across the country to hear from constituents about the impacts of the Affordable Care Act. Other witnesses, from left to right, are Dr. Jeff Reinhardt, and business owners Michael Boyette and Emma Collins.

GAINESVILLE — As an uninsured woman with a pre-existing condition, Emma Collins was exactly the kind of person the Affordable Care Act was supposed to help, U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall said.

But on Monday, the Elijay woman told lawmakers that the new law, known as Obamacare, has only made things worse for her family during a field hearing of the U.S. House Government Oversight Committee in Gainesville.

With Lawrenceville’s Woodall presiding over the hearing, Collins told the congressmen that premiums for her husband and daughter have increased from $265 a month to $898, while deductibles skyrocketed, and she has not even explored how much coverage would be for herself.

Her adult son, daughter-in-law and grandchild are facing premiums that could eat up 40 percent of their income, and their income is too low to qualify for government subsidies but too high to qualify for Medicaid.

“There has to be a better way that does not cripple families like ourselves,” Collins said at the second of four field hearings scheduled across the country to hear how the new health care law is affecting people.

Americans United for Change called the hearing a “sham,” as the witnesses invited to testify only portrayed one side of the issue, and Democrat committee members declined to attend the series of hearings.

“I welcome legitimate and responsible congressional oversight, but House Republicans have made clear that they have no interest in improving the Healthcare.gov website,” Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings said in a statement.

But Woodall said Congress should hold more field hearings to hear from constituents and discover the true impact of the law.

The Gwinnett Republican told a crowd of about 200 at the Hall County Government Building that members of the GOP-controlled House hope to repeal the health care law, replacing it with a plan that addresses issues within the system without limiting choices and driving up costs.

“I think the American people are making the case (for change),” Woodall said. “What we are finding from the Affordable Care Act is it’s not fixing problems; it’s creating them.”

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, the member of the committee who represents Gainesville, said he has heard from his constituents about problems with the law every day since he was on the campaign trail.

“This president often talks about how much supportive of people, but right now, he is hurting people,” Collins said after the two-hour session.

Committee members focused in on the testimony of Duluth businessman Raymer Sale, who owns a benefits consulting company.

The past president of the board of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce told members that it “became evident” in 2010, not long after the passage of the law, that people would lose their insurance policies, despite the president’s promise that people could keep their insurance.

Elijay man Michael Boyette said he bought into that promise, but he found his family facing a nearly $200 per month premium increase with more limited choices and plans.

“This is not affordable to me,” Boyette, a 28-year-old father with another child on the way. “This is cut and dry. This is an Obama tax, not Obamacare.”

Both Boyette and Collins talked about the impact of the higher costs on their lives, with Collins saying the local economy could take a greater hit from families ilke her own no longer being able to eat out, shop or use services like house cleaning and landscaping.

“It’s still going to be a very painful financial burden,” she said.

With 400,000 Georgians already losing their coverage and thousands more facing higher costs, committee members were concerned to hear Sale say that many companies signed on to renew policies in December to stall the impacts coming in the new year.

“I can assure you, come 2014, there is a firestorm coming through again,” Sale said.

The committee has allowed for anyone who wishes to submit written testimony to do so within the next seven days. Contact Woodall’s office if you wish to put your story on the public record.