Resolution calling for saving Affordable Care Act defeated in Ulster County Legislature

(Photo by Julie O’Connor)

Ulster County Legislator Jonathan Heppner introduced a resolution to that body opposing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, citing a recent state report estimating 20,000 county residents are at risk of losing their health insurance.

Not only could people lose coverage, but the county stands to lose $3 million in Medicaid funding should the ACA be repealed, said Heppner, D-Woodstock, whose 23rd District covers Woodstock and Hurley.

“I thought it was important to stick up for our constituents and lend our voice to this important issue,” he said.

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But the Legislature, voting along party lines on February 15, rejected Democratically-sponsored memorializing resolutions that would have opposed the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and condemned violence and hate speech. Both votes were 11-8 in favor, all Democratic votes. But it takes 12 votes from the 23-member legislature to pass anything. Four Republicans were absent.

The two resolutions brought an additional 100 persons to Wednesday night’s regular monthly meeting of the legislature at the county office building in Kingston. Thirty-two persons spoke, 14 in favor of the ACA resolution and 20 in opposition to a resolution to ban memorializing resolutions by the county legislature. The latter was a first reading of a local law; a vote will be taken at the March 21 meeting of the legislature.

But Heppner counters that memorializing resolutions are an important tool for lawmakers to be on record with their stances on various issues.

Heppner pointed out that children and adults with pre-existing conditions cannot be refused coverage and young adults just graduating college can stay on their parents’ policies until they are 26 — important provisions that could go away if the ACA is repealed.

Republicans and Democrats are split 12-11, giving the Republicans a one-member majority in the Legislature.

Legislator Jonathan Heppner

Heppner’s resolution was originally defeated in the Legislature’s Public Health and Social Services Committee, but Heppner was able to use a rule that allows a resolution to go before the entire Legislature with a petition signed by eight legislators.

Emboldened by campaign promises from President Donald Trump and majorities in the House and Senate, Republicans have vowed to repeal the ACA, also known as Obamacare. No announcement has been made detailing what would be enacted to replace it.

“I can’t think of anything more important than quality healthcare,” Heppner said. “These are discussions we should be having, especially when the ACA has such an impact on our residents.”

Woodstock Town Councilwoman Laura Ricci recently brought up a resolution to the town board urging Congress not to repeal the ACA, but the discussion moved in a different way, when Supervisor Bill McKenna  supported instead a petition that he urged residents to sign that will be forwarded to lawmakers. McKenna said that he was not a fan of memorializing resolutions, though he agreed that the ACA is an issue of paramount importance.

Ricci and Councilman Jay Wenk both spoke during the Legislature’s public comment period in support of the resolution. Wenk said he was speaking for McKenna.

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