Tea Party and the Right

Dispatches from 9 Red States: Despite Tea Party Speeches, Web Glitches and Lousy Local Media, Many Residents Want Obamacare

The contrast between the politicians and public is stark.

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A survey of media coverage in red states with vocal Obamacare opponents finds a huge contrast between Tea Partiers’ pronouncements in Congress, and residents trying to sign up for Obamacare. The residents said overwhelmingly on Tuesday that they wanted and needed affordable health care.

That contrast is as striking as it is disconcerting because most of the home state coverage of Obamacare’s rollout focused on the glitches—slow and backed-up websites that did not quicky respond when people tried to set up accounts and register.

In the-best prepared states, such as California, which created its own insurance-buying marketplace instead of relying on a federal web portal, the traffic reached 10,000 calls a second, InsuranceJournal.com reported. New York’s exchange received 2.5 million visitors in the first 30 minutes.

But for most of the country—including red states like Texas that have biggest low-income populations—many people wanting to register or find out more were frustrated and will have to return to healthcare.gov. They have 6 months to enroll, ending in March 2014 .

Of course, the start of Obamacare's open enrollment comes as House Republicans have forced a federal government shutdown, as part of an effort to defund it. What follows are comments by some of the law’s most outspoken opponents in the House, followed by comments of residents in their states seeking help with health care.

Arizona

“Unless we have something of leverage, we don’t even get paid attention to,” said Rep. David Schweikert, R-Arizona.

“I couldn’t wait,” Phyllis Brown of Phoenix told the Arizona Republic, who has been uninsured for two years and has blood pressure and heart problems. “It’s a big relief.”

Idaho

“The House is listening to the American people by advocating for a one-year delay of the individual mandates,” said Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho.

“Before we turned the lights on at 8 a.m., we saw there were already people on the line, waiting,” Alberto Gonzalez, site director of the Your Health Idaho support call center in Boise, told the Idaho Statesman.

“They want to know that resources are available, and that they don’t have to have everything done today,” Heidi Zimmer, a customer service representative at the exchange call center, told the newspaper.

South Carolina

“Our message has been fairly consistent, which is that we are going to try and chip away at Obamacare as part of these continuing resolution debates,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-South Carolina.

“The president asked us to think about who would be hurt if the government were to shut down. I ask him to think about how many millions more will be hurt if his health care law goes into effect,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-South Carolina.

"It's going to mean a whole lot especially at this time,” Hazel Bellamy told WBTV News, a CBS affiliate. “I’m actually unemployed and right now I have to have a major surgery and just beginning to sign up for some charities so if that could go through for me that would be awesome I think it's a wonderful thing."

“An avalanche of people are trying to get in, and the system is overwhelmed,” Marcus Marbert, who is working as a Navigator for the Cooperative Ministry in Columbia, told The State. “It will pass.”

Ohio

“We’re the House of Representatives. We’re the body that’s supposed to be closer to the people ... That’s why when you go home for five weeks and you hear from people that this law is not ready, that has an impact,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

“That’s really affordable,” Colette Haley, a self-employed 50-year-old acupuncture and massage therapist told the Columbus Dispatch, after learning monthly premiums could cost as little as $65 because she qualified for subsidies lowering her maximum out-of-pocket costs to $187.50 a month.

Georgia

“We are united around a very simple goal, and that is keeping the government open while protecting our constituents from the harmful effects of Obamacare,” said Rep. Tom Graves, R-Georgia.

“It’s more than irresponsible. It shows a gross lack of compassion for all of us,” Branko Radulovacki, the physician, psychiatrist and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, said in a video in response to his state’s failure to implement the law, from not enrolling eligible poor people in Medicaid to a media blackout on the launch of the insurance-buying exchanges. “You have a right to know what this health care law guarantees you.”

Louisiana

“Obamacare is the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed in Congress. It is the most existential threat to our economy ... since the Great Depression,” said Rep. John Fleming, R-Louisiana.

“I don’t understand why there’s so much pushback,” Kimberlee Lauer, a 45-year-old, single woman and Laundromat owner who makes about $35,000 a year and has a pre-existing condition, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I really am looking forward to this.”

“I feel really nerdy to admit that we stayed up 'til midnight,” Suzanne Cole, a 28-year-old woman told the newspaper. “But we did. It was like New Year's.”

Minnesota

“You bet I’m going to fight. I’m going to keep fighting until we defund and delay this thing,” said Rep. Michelle Bachman, R-Minnesota.

"We have had over 100,000 visitors come through," MNsure executive director April Todd-Malmlov told the Pioneer Press on Tuesday night. "We have over 500 accounts that were created in the first hour.”

Oklahoma

“The American people do not want Obamacare, and the representatives closest to them have voted not to spend the people’s money on it. If the Democrat-controlled Senate decides not to accept this, then it is their choice to shut down the government,” said Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma.

"As a 60-year-old woman who is self-employed this will be the only way I could possibly afford health insurance," Lois Phariss told the Chickasaw News. "I had Insure Oklahoma, which has been terrific, but now I have been cancelled. I was quoted the price of $84 per month before the Affordable Care Act when into effect. Will be interesting to see what mine will run per month."

Texas

“Americans want Congress to do two things, work together on our national fiscal crisis and stop Obamacare. It’s time Congress started listening to them,” said Rep. Steve Stockman, Texas.

“Right now, I don’t have the money to pay for it,” Gloria Cervantesm an uninsured mother of three told NBC-TV in Dallas-Ft. Worth.  “It’s going to be cheaper, less expensive, and I really need it.”

“I’m not surprised at all we've had a lot of interest, a lot of questions. I'm not surprised at all.  I'm actually happy that there's so much interest.  That a lot of people are actually trying to apply,” Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic CEO, Leonor Marquez Cantu, told NBC.

Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Georgia, Ohio, South Carolina and Arizona are among the 27 states that did not set up its own health insurance exchange because of Republican opposition to the plan.

 

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).