ST. PETERSBURG — Republican congressional candidate David Jolly said he would vote to repeal "Obamacare" as soon as possible, but opponent Kathleen Peters says she would hold off until Congress has developed an improved program.
These two candidates for Pinellas County's open congressional seat agreed the Affordable Care Act should be repealed, but they differ on when and how.
They made their comments about the health care law during separate visits to the Tampa Bay Times editorial board Monday.
A third Republican candidate, Mark Bircher, whow is scheduled to visit the editorial board today, said he would vote to repeal the law also on constitutional and pragmatic grounds. He says the private sector is much better at finding solutions to problems such as the need for affordable health care. And he said leaders should remember that "government can't give a dollar that it doesn't first take."
The three Republican candidates are in a fast-paced campaign in a special election to succeed the late Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who died Oct. 18. The Republicans face off in a primary on Jan. 14 and will then go on to face Democrat Alex Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby.
"I think this is going to be an issue we're going to talk about this week, because I know candidates in this race have staked out differing positions," Jolly said.
It's also an issue the winning Republican candidate will likely take into the general election. Sink, the Democrat, has acknowledged widespread problems with the rollout of the new law, but said it offers the possibility of greatly benefitting many Floridians who couldn't get health care previously.
Jolly maintained the health insurance law has "wreaked havoc" in Pinellas by forcing some to pay higher premiums and leading some businesses to race to renew their plans "before they're forced to go into Obamacare."
Jolly said there are some good aspects of the law — provisions that deal with portability of insurance, coverage of pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents' plans. But he said most of those provisions were available in the private marketplace — albeit at additional cost — even before Obamacare. "To suggest that we need the government to step in and take over virtually the entire health care industry terrifies me," Jolly said
Peters also is no fan of the health care law, saying "I don't believe that this affordable care act is truly affordable." She said she doesn't agree with the provision that could fine some people if they don't get health insurance — likely the people who can't afford it anyway.
But she also said there are some positive aspects to the new law, such as the one giving people coverage for pre-existing conditions, and this is why she's not in favor of simply repealing the law without planning for a replacement first. "I don't think we can just go back to the way it was," she said in a follow-up interview.
Staff Writer Curtis Krueger can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8232. Twitter: @ckruegertimes.