Tim Bishop, Lee Zeldin Clash Over Obamacare

Tim Bishop and Lee Zeldin
Tim Bishop and Lee Zeldin

During their first debate of the election cycle, hosted Monday by the Hampton Bays Civic Association, incumbent U.S. Representative Tim Bishop and N.Y.S. Senator Lee Zeldin went after each others views on the future of the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare.

Bishop, a Democrat, said the Affordable Care Act needs work but it doing much good, while Zeldin, a Republican, said it should be repealed and replaced with one of the alternatives that G.O.P. lawmakers have come up with.

Bishop answered first.

“I think the Affordable Care Act is a work in progress,” Bishop said. “There are lots of things about the Affordable Care Act that are going to require revision and being addressed. In any mature legislative body, such as the one we had after Medicare was passed, we would be addressing it. But the House of Representatives is not a mature legislative body. What the House of Representatives has done is a feckless exercise, to 52 times pass legislation—one-house only legislation, that would repeal Obamacare. What we need to do are fix the pieces of it that aren’t working, but emphasize the pieces of it that are working.

“Insurance companies can no longer tell you that your policy is canceled if you’re sick; that’s a good thing. Insurance companies can no longer tell you that if you have a child with asthma, you can’t buy a policy; that’s a good thing. Kids up to the age of 26 can stay on their parents’ policies. There’s 3 million of them in this country that now have insurance who previously didn’t; that’s a good thing. Seniors have saved almost $12 billion in their prescription drug costs because of closing the doughnut hole. Now, if someone were to propose taxing seniors $12 billion, everybody would think they were lunatics. Right? But that’s precisely what my opponent is proposing when he says that we should repeal Obamacare. And, by the way, if we are going to repeal Obamacare—which, by the way, we’re not—I would be very interested to know, what’s the solution? Because everyone recognized, pre-the passage of the Affordable Care Act, that the system we had wasn’t working. It was bankrupting families; it was bankrupting every level of government. And that’s the problem we’re trying to fix, and we’re getting a handle on it.”

Zeldin wants Congress to take a different tack, and refuted Bishop’s assertions.

“I personally believe that Obamacare needs to be repealed,” Zeldin said. “The reason why these are one-house bills, is that Harry Reid is not allowing a vote on any of these bills. And if on November 4th Republicans are able to gain control of the United States Senate, these wouldn’t be one-house bills. They’d be on the president’s desk for his signature or his veto, which is one of the reasons Republicans should gain control of the United States Senate.

“As far as seniors go, Obamacare cuts Medicare by over $700 billion, it cuts Medicare Advantage by $150 billion dollars. Our seniors, just like our young families, our women, our children, everyone is seeing lost doctors, canceled policies, longer wait times, less choice, less networks available. We’re facing conditions where families are going into the exchange, they’re finding a policy for the husband and wife and two of their kids but not for their 18-month-old. The system’s just not working. It hasn’t been implemented correctly. And there have been numerous solutions that have been put forth by Republicans. But here’s the thing: Democrats never read their own bill, so we can’t expect them to read any of ours. … It would be very productive if the incumbent wants to read either Tom Price’s bill, or Tom Coburn’s bill, or Ted Poe’s bill—they’re in bill form. Bills exist of what to replace Obamacare with. There are parts of Obamacare, like the preexisting conditions, or allowing children to stay on their parents’ policies, which are good and effective, but there’s a lot that needs to get changed and Republicans have alternatives.”

Bishop chose to use one of his rebuttals.

“The Republicans have control of the House of Representatives for four years,” Bishop said. “They control everything in terms of what comes to the floor and when. So, if there was a real Affordable Care Act alternative that they supported, we’d have seen it by now.

“First bill they passed, January 2011, H.R. 1, repeal and replace. Repeal Obamacare, and then charge the three committees with jurisdiction—Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education—with coming up with a replacement. Guess what? We’re four years in. No replacement. So, if we’re going to have a serious discussion here, let’s have a discussion. But let’s not have a one-sided discussion where one side irresponsibly says, ‘Repeal, repeal, repeal,’ but offers nothing as an alternative. Now guess what. Thirteen million Americas, our fellow citizens, now have insurance that they didn’t have a year ago. Does anybody want to say that’s a bad thing?  If Republicans have a plan that’s going to insure 13, 15, to 18 million Americans and drive down the cost of health care—healthcare inflation is at its lowest point in 30 years. Good thing.”

Zeldin was then able to offer his retort.

“If you visit my opponent’s website right now, on his website it tells you that if you want to keep your doctor you can, and if you want to keep your plan you can,” Zeldin said. “And again, as I mentioned, with regards to Tom Price, or Ted Poe or Tom Coburn, there are numerous proposals that are out there that are being discussed: About allowing small business to pool policies. To allow the portability of policies across state lines. To allow those in the Medicaid population—who aren’t going back to work because they’re afraid they’re going to lose their Medicaid coverage—to allow more private choice, so they can go back into the workforce and have a plan that best fits their … family. There are solutions with regards to tax credits to allow families who are struggling to make ends meet to be able to go out and purchase a better policy that fits their family. These are all in bill form right now. So, to suggest that we don’t have any solutions is just absolutely inaccurate. And I would recommend that you update your website.”

Read what Bishop and Zeldin had to say about Social Security and attack ads.

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