They are both small-business owners living miles apart.
But like much of the nation this week, Doug Furnell and Trisha Tataryn are split over the vote Thursday by the U.S. House of Representatives to scrap and replace the Affordable Care Act.
In Louisburg, Kan., Furnell, the 55-year-old owner of 10-employee Western Metal Co., is heartened.
“It needed tweaking,” he said of a law he holds was just financially “unsustainable.”
While in Weston, Mo., Tataryn believes just the opposite. To her, the ACA was a life saver.
Age 52 and widowed in 2015 when her husband, Lorne Tataryn, died at age 62 of cancer, she runs her own lab out of her home, making orthodontic retainers. When her husband passed on, so too did his insurance coverage. The ACA stepped in.
“I’m fine. I’m healthy. I’m a healthy woman. I don’t have any illness, or diabetes or high blood pressure or that kind of stuff,” Tataryn said. Cost of her coverage: $25 per month.
But how much will her premiums skyrocket, she wonders, if the House version is passed by the U.S. Senate and she no longer receives the subsidy that helps pay for her coverage?
Furnell, meanwhile, concedes that there are some good things about what’s often called Obamacare. He likes that it allows young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, which the Republican plan maintains. He also likes the provision that requires insurers to provide affordable care to people with pre-existing conditions.
But the whole notion of a personal mandate? To Furnell, it chafes at his sense of personal liberty.
“You are required to have health insurance or pay a penalty,” Furnell said.
To him, that was just wrong. So the debate continues in Kansas City as it does nationwide, with politicians being both praised and lambasted.
In Overland Park, some 60 protesters converged on the office of U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder even before he cast his vote to repeal Obamacare on Thursday. They vowed to hold the Republican congressman accountable when he runs for re-election next year.
Yoder, of Overland Park, is one of 23 Republicans in districts Hillary Clinton won in November who had to choose between breaking with their party over a bill that was controversial at home, or throwing their support behind it to ensure a much-needed victory for their party. Their decisions could come back to haunt them on the campaign trail.
“There are a lot of members that can’t win on this,” said U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat from Kansas City. “Either way, they’re in trouble.”
In the end, it was lawmakers like Yoder from Clinton-won districts who helped carry the GOP plan to repeal the ACA. Fourteen of them voted yes. Nine voted no.
The Republicans’ Affordable Health Care for America Act squeaked by with just two votes to spare on a largely party-line vote of 217 to 213. It would eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, loosen regulations on insurance companies and make major changes to Medicaid.
The bill will now head to the U.S. Senate, where it is expected to face an uphill battle.
Yoder issued a statement after the vote. He declined a request for an interview with The Star.
“We are seeing the dangerous collapse of Obamacare play out across the country,” he said. “Rather than forcing Americans to buy plans they don’t want or can’t afford, regulating insurance providers out of the market altogether, or leaving people with no options to choose from, the (GOP health care bill) makes the necessary changes to repair our health care system that’s collapsing before our eyes. For these reasons, today I voted yes.”
He was joined by the three other members of the Kansas delegation and by every Missouri Republican in the House, including U.S. Reps. Sam Graves and Vicky Hartzler, who represent portions of the Kansas City suburbs.
Cleaver voted against the bill, calling it poorly conceived and warning that it would raise costs for people with pre-existing conditions.
In the Kansas City area and on social media, the backlash against Yoder’s vote already has begun, with the protest at his district office organized by the progressive group Indivisible Kansas City, and a flood of angry messages on Twitter and Facebook.
Ginny Krystel, a 62-year-old Leawood resident, said earlier Thursday in an interview that she made dozens of calls to Yoder’s office urging him to vote against the bill. Each time she was told by Yoder’s staff that the congressman had not made up his mind.
“I have written Yoder. I have called Yoder. I have gone to his office here in Overland Park,” Krystel said. “Let me put it this way: If Kevin Yoder is surprised that Ginny Krystel or many other people don’t want Trumpcare to pass, then I’m afraid he’s been asleep.”
Krystel, a breast cancer survivor, had difficulty obtaining insurance after leaving her job at Sprint in 2001. She was able to get coverage through a high-risk pool for $1,200 a month. The passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 reduced that monthly premium to $250, she said.
Other constituents were happy to see the bill pass.
Tammy Schrader, a 56-year-old single parent in Overland Park, said that she canceled insurance for herself and her two children this year because her premiums had become too expensive under Obamacare.
“It was anything but affordable to me,” said Schrader, who owns a small engineering consulting business. She said that her premium for an insurance plan with a $5,000 deductible increased from $161 a month in 2014 to $720 a month for the same plan this year.
“I don’t know what’s in this new bill. I just want the old one to go away,” she said.
The Republican bill bars insurers from outright denying policies to people with pre-existing conditions. But it allows states to opt out of ACA mandates that prevent insurers from charging people more based on those conditions. Health policy experts say that could make insurance prohibitively expensive for people with chronic conditions in states that opt out.
A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm, found that as of last week, 59 percent of voters in Yoder’s district opposed the bill and only 21 percent supported it.
Clay Barker, the executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said that Yoder had faced pressure on the bill from both opponents and supporters.
He said that the bill’s passage was important to Republicans because it will be seen as a sign that the GOP-controlled Congress can move the party’s agenda forward with a Republican president in the White House.
“It’s more of a psychological issue, not so much the particular policies in the bill, but they want to see Congress pass something,” Barker said. “It’s important to a lot of Republicans just to show momentum.”
David Jordan, the executive director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, a group that has pushed to expand Medicaid in Kansas, said that lawmakers could face significant political fallout for supporting the legislation.
The legislation would block Kansas from expanding Medicaid — something that the majority of Kansas state lawmakers support — and would lead to reduced federal dollars for the state by shifting Medicaid funding to a per-capita system, Jordan said.
Older Americans will pay considerably more for insurance under the bill, according to Jim Torres, a program manager who has been enrolling people into the ACA marketplace for four years at the Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center in Kansas City.
Current law restricts insurers from charging older customers more than three times as much as younger customers, but the bill enables insurers to charge older customers five times as much as younger customers and enables states to set their own ratios.
“Even with the tax credit subsidy, they (older customers) are going to pay more,” Torres said.
The Missouri Hospital Association said in a statement that the bill will reduce health insurance for more than 200,000 Missourians by 2020 and that states such as Kansas and Missouri that did not expand Medicaid “will be harmed disproportionately as the Act takes effect.”
The Star’s Andy Marso and Lindsay Wise, The Star’s Washington correspondent, contributed to this report.