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Friday, 03 March 2017 17:06

Pence pushes Obamacare replacement during Janesville visit

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JANESVILLE -- Vice President Mike Pence met with business leaders in Janesville today as the administration continued to make the case against Obamacare and put pressure on Congress to pass a plan to repeal and replace.

Pence was in Janesville Friday morning, March 3, 2017, along with Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Tom Price, Sen. Ron Johnson and Speaker Paul Ryan, who was back in his hometown.

The group toured the Blain Supply corporate headquarters on East Racine Street, then held a private meeting with business leaders to talk about the economy and Obamacare.

(Tap for more photos)

The morning wrapped up with a speech by Pence to about 300 invited guests, including business and community leaders and Blain employees. The speech was not open to the public.

The group was introduced by Blain Supply CEO Jane Blain Gilbertson, whose father, N.B. "Bert" Blain and uncle, W.C. "Claude" Blain founded the company.

She said the company had only a few days to prepare for the visit, but she was thrilled with the chance to bring together local businesspeople to talk about the challenges they face.

Bob Arndt of Arndt Farms and Edmund Halabi, owner of the Italian House Restaurant, also were among those who attended the private meeting.

In his comments, Pence said health care was President Trump's No. 1 priority, and they were working on it right out of the gate.

"Obamacare has failed, and Obamacare must go, " Pence said.

Pence noted they planned to eliminate all of its mandates and taxes and present a better plan.

"At the same time we repeal Obamacare we’re going to replace it with something that works and lowers the cost of health insurance for every American," Pence said.

Although Pence's comments were filled with optimism, specifics on a replacement plan were few.

Those details could be revealed this coming week when a plan being worked on in the House of Representatives could get its first committee hearing.

Americans aren't the only ones waiting to hear details.

The draft plan has been kept behind closed doors, much to the consternation of some in the Senate.

Sen. Rand Paul on Thursday demanded to see the draft of the Obamacare replacement bill, but was denied a chance to look at it.

President Trump, in his speech Tuesday to a joint session of Congress, outlined some broad ideas that will likely be incorporated into the bill.

Mandates that everyone would have to buy insurance would be out.

There also would be no minimum coverage requirements, as is currently in place.

Insurers would be able to sell across state lines for the first time.

And, as Pence emphasized in his speech, there will be an accommodation for those with pre-existing conditions.

Subsidies to help low income people afford insurance would be eliminated and in its place would be some type of tax credit that would help people buy their own insurance.

A sticking point on the right is weather or not those tax credits would be refundable, meaning low-wage workers with a small tax burden could actually get more money back in a refund than was withheld from their paycheck.

But on Friday, those details were not front and center for the friendly crowd inside the Blain Supply Conference Center who applauded loudly and regularly.

Jaye DeBates of McNabb, Illinois, a Trump for President organizer during the campaign, was excited about the work that the Trump administration already has done.

"How about that stock market," he said, noting that the market has been rising steadily since the inauguration.

Across the street from the Blain Supply facility, the mood was anything but supportive.

A group of about 60 protesters walked along the sidewalk outside the property's fence chanting slogans like, "What does Democracy look like? This is what Democracy looks like."

The protest, organized by the Wisconsin Progressive Alliance, drew people from a wide area.

Jennifer Teffer of East Troy carried a sign that read, "Deport radicalized Christians -- separation of church and state."

She said she also was concerned about the repeal of Obamacare, and cited a Kaiser Family Foundation report that projected up to 52 million people would lose health coverage if the pre-existing conditions provision was repealed.

Nearby, a man who identified himself as Yon Yohnson from Beloit, carried an upside down American flag.

He came out to protest because, "he was against fascist leaders," he said.

Meanwhile, Ryan and the rest of the group were expected to return to Washington, D.C. to begin preparing for this week's rollout of the Obamacare replacement plan.

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