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Some Republicans Love Obamacare

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Carol Gentry/HNF-WUSF
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

By now, the Republican Party’s view of the Affordable Care Act should be pretty familiar, as in this ad from David Jolly:

“I’m fighting to repeal Obamacare, right away. It’s bad for our families, and our economy.”

But not all Republicans agree; one is Irene Jacusis of New Port Richey, who was uninsured until now.

“I did not vote for Obama," she said. "But I am so in love with this plan, with this health care plan, what can I do?"

She knows that her party wants to repeal it. "But I don’t think they’re going to," she said. "There are too many people out there who need this and require it.”

She says her husband Ronald died last year from a rare sarcoma because he waited too long to see a doctor after he felt a lump.

"If my husband had gone, if he had insurance at the time, when it was the size of a marble and had gotten an x-ray and taken care of it at stage 1 level, he would be alive today."

Another Republican who wants to keep the Affordable Care Act is Mary Fallon of St. Petersburg. She was a teacher for many years, but because she was paid from grant funds she didn’t qualify for health insurance. She had to buy her own policy, but then she got sick. Hello, pre-existing condition.

She was between “a rock and a hard place. If I canceled my insurance, I was uninsurable."

If she dropped the policy and got sick, she could lose everything.

“By the time I canceled my policy I was up to $768 a month, so what is that, almost 10 grand a year? With $5,000 deductible. Do the math."

Then came the Affordable Care Act and After running into glitches, Fallon found her way to Johnnie Ruth Clarke health center in St. Petersburg. And a navigator, Johanna Santiago.

“In a half hour she had my account set up, and I had a confirmation, a password, a login, and I was good to go," said Fallon, 49. "This was December and I cried. I just held my hands up in the air. Thank you, god. Finally, some relief. I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Credit Carol Gentry/HNF-WUSF
The Florida Channel
Peggy Arvanitas of Seminole, who displays her feelings on her bumper.

Now her premium is $150 a month, she said. Her deductible is only one-third as much as it used to be.

“ I have dental insurance!" she said in wonder. "And all the doctors that I do see, my dentist, my GYN, for a whole year I’m paying less than I paid per month.”

Fallon says she thinks the Affordable Care Act will help the economy. “The difference is now I can take the money that was going to that one insurance premium and I can go to the hair stylist,I can get my house repaired. I’m spending money in my community. This is going to be a ripple effect, this is going to restart the economic engine. We have been so enslaved by the health insurance system.”

She says people who have health care security -- such as veterans and Medicare patients -- need to see that others need health care, too. But she knows they don't think that way; as a registered Republican, she sees it in her mail.

“Every day I receive four-color glossy postcards for the election from candidates. It’s all hate mail. There’s no platform or program for fixing the problem of insurance, there’s just anti-Affordable Care. It’s just anti-Obamacare, all this hate. There’s no solution."

Peggy Arvanitas of Seminole has been a Republican for decades. In fact, she helps get GOP voters out to the polls.

And yet, on her car there’s a bumper sticker that says "I Heart Obamacare." Here’s why: She lost her coverage last year when the company she worked for went under; she had to take a part-time job with no benefits.

Then the health law kicked in. Since Jan. 1, she’s had a Humana plan she likes. Because her income is low, she pays just $10 a month.

When Arvanitas finishes her business degree and passes the CPA exam, she says, her income will go up, and the premium will, too. She sees that as sensible and fair.

“It isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue," she said. "It’s a health care issue.”

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.