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Former reps seek to fix health care

John Boccieri of Poland was among 21 former Democratic members of the U.S. House who lost their seats in 2010 — in part because of their votes in support of the Affordable Care Act — to write President Joe Biden and Democratic leadership urging them to “finish the job” on solidifying the law.

The letter urges Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to “include provisions in the Build Back Better Act to lock in the most important improvements to the Affordable Care Act permanently.”

Congress is considering the $3.5 trillion social spending reconciliation bill that is opposed by Republicans as well as some Democrats.

Fixing the ACA, also known as Obamacare, includes increasing subsidies for private plans and creating a permanent Medicaid program in states where Republicans declined to do so, according to the letter.

Boccieri said Tuesday: “It needs to be strengthened. No bill out of Congress is perfect and there is room for improvements. First and foremost, we need to make permanent that pre-existing conditions remain in the bill because Republicans have tried to repeal this bill without a replacement.”

Boccieri was elected in 2008 to a congressional seat centered in Stark County after serving eight years representing Mahoning County in the Ohio House and state Senate.

In 2010, after the ACA vote, Democrats had a net loss of 63 House seats, the largest shift since 1948. Among the defeated incumbent Democrats was Boccieri.

“The vote was part of the reason why I lost in 2010,” Boccieri said. “We could have done a better job explaining the bill to the people. We allowed Republicans to weaponize it with false claims of death panels. Republicans attempt to weaponize and politicize issues that the people support like infrastructure and immigration reform.”

Boccieri was appointed in September 2015 to an open Ohio House seat, was elected in 2016 and chose to seek a state Senate seat in 2018, which he lost to Republican Michael Rulli of Salem.

The idea for the letter to Biden, Pelosi and Schumer came from Baron Hill, an Indiana Democrat who also lost his seat in the 2010 election, Boccieri said.

The letter reads: “Losing control of the House to Republicans in 2010 was a terrible setback for our party and for our country. We know that the radicalized and Trump-ified Republican Party of today would almost certainly allow the new subsidies and Medicaid policies under the Affordable Care Act to expire if it found itself in power again. Republicans’ past voting record on health care is evidence of that likelihood.”

It concluded: “Democrats serving in Congress today must not let them have that opportunity. We urge you to heed the lessons of our experience and draw on them to ensure that it was not in vain.”

Boccieri said he also sent a message to Republicans: “Help us strengthen the law and make it better. Let’s work on what we agree on and not what we disagree on.”

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