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A key Obamacare advocate tells us how he’ll fight repeal in 2017

Live Q&A with Families USA Executive Dir. Ron Pollack

Sarah Kliff takes your questions about the future of Obamacare. She's joined by Ron Pollack, director of Families USA.

Posted by Sarah Kliff on Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The fight over Obamacare is heating up — and Ron Pollack will nearly certain be in the center of it.

Pollack was a key advocate who fought for the passage of the Affordable Care Act. He is now organizing a coalition called Protect Our Care to fight for the health law’s future.

He came by the Vox office Tuesday to talk about who has gotten involved in that coalition, what role the president might play, and how much work states are able to do to save the health care law. I asked him questions I received from members of Vox’s Facebook group for Obamacare enrollees.

Below are a few of Pollack’s comments that I found most interesting, and you can find our full interview at the top of this post.

Will President Obama get involved in the fight to save Obamacare?

Pollack has been in the middle of building a coalition to fight for Obamacare called Protect Your Care. I asked him about whether he expected that President Barack Obama, after he leaves office, would become involved in some of that coalition’s advocacy work.

“I don’t yet know what the president is going to do,” Pollack says. “I did reach out to his staff. We have an annual conference coming up and I was hoping he might share his views. I don’t think that’s going to work out but, you know, this is a key legacy for the president. And I would think he will express himself at different points in the debate.”

Why some groups that like Obamacare may sit on the sidelines of this health care fight

One of our readers, Jon Siegel, submitted a question about whether large disease-specific advocacy groups — like the American Cancer Society or American Heart Association — are joining Pollack’s new coalition to save the health care law. He said they generally are not, and explained why.

“Some of the disease groups are trying to curry favor, frankly, with the new administration and with congressional Republicans,” he says. “I think they will be part of an effort to make sure harm does not get caused. Whether they formally join the coalition and or feel like if they join the coalition, Republicans won’t like us, we have to work through those sensitivities.

“A good example of this is the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network — they issued a wonderfully strong statement about this. We will cooperate with any such group because they’re doing the right thing in terms of protecting their members.”

Can states set up their own single-payer systems? Probably not.

I recently spoke with the director of Colorado’s Obamacare marketplace, who wants to try to keep the marketplace running even if the health care law ends. Brian Warren, one of our group members, wanted to know if states could take it another step further: Is there any chance some states could use Obamacare repeal as an opportunity to set up a single-payer system?

Pollack was skeptical. “For most states it’s not going to be possible,” he says. “Think of a state that has expanded Medicaid. “They’re currently receiving 100 percent of the costs of that expansion [from the federal government]. There are not many states that can pick that up. California, which has had good success in terms of implementing the Affordable Care Act, I think folks in California and the governor there will try to be as helpful as possible.

“Does that mean they can retain the coverage expansion that occurred? I don’t know. Remember Vermont tried to do single-payer, Colorado tried to do single-payer in a referendum, and these did not succeed. Part of the reason these didn’t succeed is because of the cost of doing that. States that are hard-pressed with resources would probably have to increase taxes, and there are all sorts of other things like education that are priorities for state government.”

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