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Town Hall with Rep. Sam Farr

SamFarrNewWhat will the long-term effects of the government shutdown be?

After being closed for 16 days, the federal government reopened for business once again two weeks ago. Federal workers went back to their jobs, visitors returned to our national parks and services that your tax dollars pay for were made available again.

However, the shutdown will have some lasting effects. Every time we face one of these manufactured crises, people lose just a little more confidence in their government. This inability of Washington to work together these past few years has been a drag on our economy, costing us billions of dollars.

A small minority in Congress from the extreme elements of the Republican Party orchestrated this shutdown. They ignored their Constitutional duty and instead held our economy hostage in an attempt to extort concessions from Congress and the White House.

But there is hope. It was the majority of us in Congress who said enough was enough.  A bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives refused to cave in to the Tea Party’s unreasonable demands. When finally given the opportunity, we came together to vote to open the government back up.

I hope the real lasting effect of this shutdown is that the Tea Party’s stranglehold over our government comes to an end. Our country needs to look for compromises to solve our long-term budget issues. But we can’t do that if one side refuses to negotiate and jumps at every opportunity to obstruct the normal political process.

Democrats and moderate Republicans want to work together to make our country better. It is why we came to Washington. For the past few years, we have been unable to do that because of an ideological few. But, in October, the majority stood up to these bullies. I just hope we continue to stand up to them.

What about the rollout of the Affordable Care Act has gone well and what hasn’t? What are you hearing from constituents about it so far?

The rollout of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has been rather successful since it was enacted three years ago. The law has been driving down costs while providing better coverage for all Americans. In October, the most crucial phase of the new law went into effect when the healthcare exchanges that allow individuals to purchase their own insurance opened to the public. If you do not already have health insurance, either through your work or the government, you will need to have coverage starting Jan. 1 and the exchanges will provide you with plenty of options.

The successes of the exchanges are following two different paths. The states that created their own healthcare exchange are having a successful rollout. The states that refused to create their own and instead are relying on the federal government are having a much tougher time.

California created its own exchange, Covered California. At the beginning of this month, uninsured Californians began to purchase affordable plans though Covered California. The majority of people used the website, CoveredCA.com to make that purchase. I have been told the website was running a little slow for the first few days but now that demand has tapered the site is running smoother. 

Meanwhile, the 27 states that failed to open an exchange have created a burden on the federal government’s website. The large influx of people to the site has caused a bottleneck that is creating problems, making it difficult for people to sign up. Hopefully, over time that bottleneck will shrink and folks will have easier access to the healthcare options they need.

It is important that everyone understands their options under the new law. The simplest way to get that information here in California is to go to CoveredCA.com or by calling (800) 300-1506. Also, residents of the Central Coast should feel free to contact any of my offices if they have questions about the Affordable Care Act and how to enroll.   

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