|MISSION, September 3 - A healthcare administrator says he was left “disappointed and bewildered” by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s criticism of the Affordable Care Act at a fundraiser in Mission on Tuesday.
In a question and answer session, Hari Namboodiri, senior administrator at Las Palmas Healthcare Center in McAllen, pressed Cruz on what he would do to help the hundreds of thousands of residents in the Rio Grande Valley that lack health insurance. He said Cruz dodged the question.
“Senator Cruz keeps saying defund Obamacare, defund Obamacare. But he never comes up with an alternative,” Namboodiri told the Guardian. “Here in the Rio Grande Valley we have the highest number of uninsured in the country. What does the senator plan to do to help them if he kills the Affordable Care Act?”
The fundraiser was held by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership. There were 35 tables and each table cost $500. Proceeds went towards an RGVP scholarship, said the group’s president and CEO, Julian Alvarez. Outside the Cimarron, protestors complained about Cruz’s position on immigration reform and Obamacare.
In his question to Cruz, Namboodiri noted that the Valley has the highest percentage of uninsured in the nation. “Being the largest uninsured population, I believe you agree all the people should be insured,” Namboodiri said. “You made a proposal or you suggested that we need to have affordable insurance coverage. What is your plan to get that affordable health insurance coverage? We need to make sure everyone has the health insurance.”
In response, Cruz said it was not the case that everyone needed to have health insurance. Rather, he said, everyone needs to have the option of purchasing health insurance.
“I would frame it a little differently. I wouldn’t say that we should have policy to forces every person to have health insurance. I would say we should have policy that expands the opportunity for people to have health insurance; that makes it more affordable, that makes it easier for people to go and purchase it and take control of their own healthcare decisions,” Cruz said.
“The single biggest impediment to accessing health insurance is the lack of economic growth, the lack of jobs. If you lose your job, if you can’t get a job, if you can’t get the hours of work you don’t have the money to purchase health insurance. (It’s about) climbing that economic ladder.”
Cruz then cited what happened to his Dad when he was young.
“Using my Dad’s example, when he started washing dishes, he did not have health insurance. But he was able to get it as he climbed the economic ladder and got higher paying jobs. That is what we need to be doing, getting the economy booming again, and taking out the legal and regulatory barriers that are, at present, driving up costs. We make health insurance personal and affordable and right now, putting mountains of regulations on it is going backwards,” Cruz said.
Namboodiri said Cruz has got his facts wrong. He said in Europe, federal regulations were much higher in the healthcare arena yet healthcare costs were lower than in the United States. He said he also did not understand Cruz’s reference to his Dad.
“I am pleased Senator Cruz’s father was able to climb the economic ladder, to be successful and to later get health insurance for his family. I am happy that he is healthy. But, there are hundreds of thousands here in the Valley who cannot afford health insurance. What are we supposed to do, wait for them all to climb the economic ladder?” Namboodiri told the Guardian, after hearing Cruz’s response.
Earlier, Cruz was asked another question on healthcare by a man who did not give his name. The man said he was concerned that Republicans are not coming up with any positive proposals to replace Obamacare.
Cruz said he understood those concerns. He said that in addition to “defunding Obamacare,” he would allow people to purchase health insurance across state lines, expand health savings accounts, and de-link health insurance from employment.
Cruz said if people could purchase health insurance across state lines the nation would end up with a “true national 50-state market” for health insurance.
“The single biggest barrier to people getting health insurance is cost. A major driver of that cost is all the bells and whistles of government regulations that are put on health insurance. If we had a true national market, what we would see is the widespread availability of low cost, catastrophic health insurance policy,” Cruz said.
“There are a great many in the Valley who don’t have health insurance and they don’t have it because they cannot afford it. If we create greater competition and expand the availability of low-cost, catastrophic plans, a great deal more people would be able to afford and get health insurance.”
Namboodiri said this response from Cruz sounds just like the market exchange being ushered in by Obamacare.
Cruz said he would expand health savings accounts by giving tax advantages to those who save for routine prevention and procedures short of catastrophic. He also said de-linking health insurance from employment would mean health insurance would go with a worker, even if he or she lost their job. “We should change the federal tax laws so that health insurance is personal and affordable, just like car insurance, regardless of what job you are in, it goes with you and travels with you. That goes a long way to solving the problem of pre-existing conditions because you can maintain your insurance regardless of your employment,” Cruz said.
None of this convinced Namboodiri. “I am afraid the Senator’s remarks on healthcare are wholly inadequate and simplistic. Yes, they grab the headlines but there is no substance. He does not have a plan. We need a healthy nation, so that workers can do their job and to be productive and responsible. If you do not have a healthy population then it will affect the job, the productivity and the economy. It is a continuum.”