Hours before an anti-Obamacare rally was scheduled to take place in Tampa, Affordable Care Act supporters tried to seize the initiative at their own news conference, combating calls from Republicans in Congress who want to repeal the ACA or shut the government down in protest.
"I've never heard of more sore losing in my life. They can't get their way. They can't defund Obamacare so they're going to shut down the government," said Brad Woodhouse with Americans United for Change, a progressive group based in Washington.
Republicans appear to be divided about whether or not to fund a continuing resolution next month when the debt ceiling issue is revisited. Some GOP members (such as Marco Rubio) have tried to put the onus back on President Obama, saying they want to fund all government initiatives except for health care reform. Other conservatives have called the idea of defunding Obamacare nonsense, with any such vote in the House sure to be rejected by the Democratic-led Senate and/or vetoed by the president.
Woodhouse said he had a simple message for Rubio, DeMint and Ted Cruz. "Don't repeal our health care."
Earlier this week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi bashed the so-called "navigators" who are charged with signing people up on the exchanges that will allow the uninsured to get health care access beginning in 2014.
That notion angers Woodhouse, a former spokesman for Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other Democrats. "Don't you try to confuse people ... and try to make them think something's wrong with enrolling — that it's going to hurt them. It's going to help them," he said. He added that he's not sure why Republicans run for office since they don't appear to want to to help people.
Jodi Ray is the program director at Florida Covering Kids & Families, the group that has received more than $4 million dollars from the Department of Health and Human Services to sign up uninsured Floridians. In a conference call earlier on Wednesday, she said her organization has been assisting people (generally kids) to get health care access for years. She said that by law, her group has to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act's (HIPAA) rules and regulations without being accused of violating anyone's privacy.
"We realize that safeguards are important," she said.
St. Petersburg based MD Mona Mangat is vice chair of Doctors for America, a progressive group that strongly backs the ACA. She told reporters in Tampa that a recent patient of hers is a 40-year-old man with a serious asthma problem who is currently uninsured. She said she's buying time for him right now until next January, when he will be eligible for a subsidy to get coverage.
"What was really shocking to me was when I began seeing him about eight months ago, he had no idea what I was talking about," Dr. Mangat said. She cited one study that said 78 percent of Americans aren't aware of the exchanges.
"What really gets me mad is that opponents of this law, like the ones who are going to be down the street later today, are mounting a campaign to convince people not to get health insurance," Mangat continued. "And they're continuing this campaign of misinformation, disinformation and I'm just going to say lies, because that's what they are."
The Heritage Foundation event featuring former South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint was scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Crown Plaza hotel in Tampa. But at 5 p.m., supporters of the ACA were scheduled to meet up.