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Affordable Care Act

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In the wake of a political battle that characterized 2017, it appears solutions for potentially improved and more affordable health care may be on the horizon.

While federal lawmakers bicker over the Affordable Care Act, three corporations are teaming up to resolve the issue for their employees. If the companies are successful in creating an effective health care system, it’s possible their idea could benefit all Americans.

Online retailer Amazon, holding company Berkshire Hathaway and bank JPMorgan Chase issued a press release Jan. 30 announcing plans to start an independent health care company. The statement provided little detail about the joint venture except that “the initial focus of the new company will be on technology solutions that will provide U.S. employees and their families with simplified, high-quality and transparent health care at a reasonable cost.” The hope is that it will balance rising health care costs with enhanced patient satisfaction and outcomes. The release also mentioned a desire to transition away from a profit-based health care system.

After the announcement of the initiative, stock prices of major health insurance companies dropped, and rightfully so. If it expands in the future, the new partnership may create much-needed competition in an arena fraught with overpricing, complicated procedures and an abundance of paperwork. Competition is always a good thing. It prevents medical costs from being controlled by just a handful of insurance providers, and in an important area like one’s health, everyone should have coverage options that will ensure
receiving the highest quality of care possible.

“The ballooning costs of [health care] act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy,” said Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffet.

The joint venture also creates opportunities for other employers to join forces with the giants, or attempt to come up with their own answers to provide better health care options for their workers.

But this isn’t the first time a corporation has become involved in health care. In December, CVS Health bought health insurance giant Aetna for $69 billion with a similar goal — to remake the consumer health care experience and build a health care platform around individuals.

In an era where many Americans fear that one accident or illness will drastically alter their financial future — because they can’t afford health insurance to assist with potentially high medical expenses — the idea that legitimate solutions are being sought is refreshing. What’s even more uplifting is that these companies understand the importance of their employees being able to afford health insurance and, in theory, politics will be held out of the discussion.

Considering all three corporations have enjoyed immense successes in their respective fields, the potential for innovative ideas from the three giants is exciting.

We look forward to seeing if the private sector can produce what elected officials were stuck in the mud trying to accomplish all of 2017.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer from New York was among the strongest opponents of the GOP-backed bill to repeal Obamacare. File photo by Kevin Redding

With a dramatic thumbs down gesture from U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) in the middle of the night July 28, the GOP-backed health care bill was effectively killed in the United States Senate, leaving the future of health care in the country, state and county a mystery.

“First: I want to thank Sens. [Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)], [Susan Collins (R-Maine)], and McCain for showing such courage, strength, and principle.”

— Chuck Schumer

As a result of the vote, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, remains the law of the land for the time being, despite rhetoric from President Donald Trump (R) suggesting the system is on the verge of collapse. In New York, a universal health care bill progressed past the state assembly and has been in committee since June 2016, awaiting state senate approval and a final signature from Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). A New York State health care bill would supersede federal law.

“First: I want to thank Sens. [Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)], [Susan Collins (R-Maine)], and McCain for showing such courage, strength, and principle,” U.S. Sen. and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said on Twitter July 28. The three Republican senators voted in line with the 48 Democrats to effectively kill the bill, despite the GOP majority. “To everyone who called, tweeted, emailed, and raised their voice in any way: thank you. Your stories matter. But we are not celebrating. We are relieved — for the millions of Americans who can keep their insurance and breathe a little easier. Now, it’s time for the Senate to come together in a bipartisan way to fix the problems that exist in our health care system. We can stabilize the markets through funding cost sharing reduction and creating reinsurance programs, which keep premiums, deductibles down.”

U.S. Rep. for New York’s 3rd Congressional District Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) released a proposal July 31 with the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of legislators which Suozzi serves as the vice-chair of, that would “stabilize the individual insurance market,” in the wake of the vote, according to a press release. The plan would create a dedicated stability fund to reduce premiums and limit losses of coverage, repeal the 2.3 percent medical device sales tax that is on all medical device supplies, provide clear guidelines for states that want to enter into regional control of their health care and create more options for customers, and more.

“Americans are desperate for Democrats and Republicans to work together to try and tackle the challenges our country faces,” Suozzi said in a statement. “The Problem Solvers Caucus, by proposing this major bipartisan first step, is like an oasis in a desert of dysfunction. We still have much more to do with health care and other issues and we hope our colleagues will join our efforts in this spirit of goodwill and compromise for the common good.”

“The Problem Solvers Caucus, by proposing this major bipartisan first step, is like an oasis in a desert of dysfunction.”

— Tom Suozzi

The New York State Assembly bill for the 2017-18 session, which is currently in committee, would establish The New York Health Act, to create a single-payer health care system.

A single-payer system requires a single-payer fund, which all New Yorkers would pay into to cover health care costs of an individual, instead of through private insurers. In a single-payer system every citizen is covered, patients have the freedom to choose their own doctors and hospitals, and employers would no longer be responsible for health care costs. Suozzi attended a March rally in Huntington in support of a single-payer system for New York.

The U.S. Senate version of the health care bill passed by the House of Representatives in May  would have resulted in drastic cuts to Medicaid funding for New Yorkers. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization established to deliver health policy analysis to the public, nearly $92 billion in funding would be cut from New York’s Medicaid expansion dollars between 2020 and 2026.

The predominantly Republican support for the repeal of Obamacare stems from expensive premiums and an individual mandate requiring the purchase of health insurance for all Americans with a fine for noncompliance.

The U.S. Congressional Budget Office was no more optimistic about the GOP health care bill than the Kaiser Family Foundation. A July 20 report from the CBO on one of the many versions of the now-failed senate bill predicted 17 million Americans would be uninsured by 2018 had the bill passed, in addition to increases in premiums.

A scene from a health care vigil held in Huntington on the corner of Park Avenue and Main Street last week. Photo from Legislator Spencer’s office

Huntington doctors, legislators and community members gathered last Wednesday, June 28 for a health care vigil to protest and call for improvements to the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the U.S. Senate’s answer to the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

Although a vote for the bill was rescheduled until after the July Fourth recess, Republican senators have been working to swiftly pass their health care bill, which was passed in the House in May, and has been met with criticism.

The Congressional Budget Office has projected that over a decade, some 22 million fewer people would be insured compared to those currently covered under the ACA.

Huntington residents, concerned they will be uninsured and unable to care for themselves and their loved ones if the Senate bill is passed, attended the event.

Dr. Eve Meltzer-Krief, a pediatrician who works in Huntington village, has worked to organize many events encouraging Americans to speak out against the proposed health care bill.

“As a physician, it’s important to show we’re coming together against this bill,” Meltzer-Krief said in a phone interview. “I think it’s a terrible bill — it’s the opposite of what Robin Hood does.”

A scene from a health care vigil held in Huntington on the corner of Park Avenue and Main Street last week. Photo from Legislator Spencer’s office

The Huntington doctor said much of the public has fundamental misunderstandings about who Medicaid helps, and cuts to funding could be disastrous for many Long Islanders. The proposed Senate bill would rein in future growth of Medicaid spending — amounting to about $770 billion less funding over the course of a decade.

“Children, the elderly, the disabled, low-income families, they are the people who rely on Medicaid,” Meltzer-Krief said. “[These cuts] would affect so many people, it would hurt so many people. It’s an unethical bill and fundamentally wrong.”

Suffolk County Legislator Dr. William Spencer (D-Centerport) was in attendance for the event. Spencer is an ear, nose and throat physician.

“I felt it was important to attend because the crux of my passion for public office is to give a voice to the population that doesn’t have the voice,” Spencer said in a phone interview. “The disabled, children, the unemployed, they often don’t have a platform. This bill has the potential to change the lives of millions of people.”

Spencer said a bill this important needs input from both sides of the aisle: “This should be a bipartisan issue, these decisions shouldn’t be rushed in a back room.”

The legislator said it was very powerful to see the community reach out at the vigil, and see all walks of life attend including men and women, old and young, disabled residents, different races, and gay and straight people.

Meltzer-Krief said the proposed changes to states’ responsibilities to cover essential health benefits will affect all kinds of people, like women relying on maternity care and people dealing with drug addiction.

“The timing with how substance abuse is on the rise … it’s really terrible,” she said. “There are a lot of dangerous things about this bill. Every doctor and health organization I’ve talked to is against this bill. You should listen to your doctors when it comes to patient care, not [13] men behind closed doors.”

New York Sens. Chuck Schumer (D) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D) have both said they are against the Senate version of this bill and would not vote for it.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization that analyzes health policies, has created an interactive map so Americans can compare changes in their premiums and tax credits from the Affordable Care Act to the American Health Care Act. Image from the Kaiser Family Foundation Website

Republicans in Congress have vowed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, since its inception in 2010, and after much adieu, a bill has finally been introduced to take its place.

The American Health Care Act has been met with opposition from both parties, while elected officials and hospital administrators weighed in on what the changes might mean for North Shore residents.

The most notable changes in the new health care plan compared to the existing one include an elimination of the individual mandate, which required all Americans to purchase health insurance or be subject to a fine — a sticking point for many Republicans on Obamacare; a cut of federal Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood for one year; adjusting tax credits based on age instead of income; and shifting Medicaid expansion set forth by Obamacare to the discretion of states instead of the federal government, among many others.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization established to deliver health policy analysis to the public, has created an interactive map on its website to illustrate the estimated changes in premiums paid and tax credits for several demographics from the ACA to the AHCA.

“This is bad news for New York. … We cannot support this legislation in its current form.”

—Kevin Dahill

Tax credits, or the amount a taxpayer can offset what is owed in federal income tax, are a component of both the current health care law and the proposed replacement, though their implementation is very different.

According to the map estimates, a 27-year-old living in Suffolk County making $30,000 per year would receive about 50 percent less in tax credits in 2020 if the new bill became law. A 27-year-old making $40,000 per year would see the tax credit slashed by only 14 percent, but a $10,000 raise would net that same 27-year-old an approximate additional 52 percent in tax credits under the AHCA compared to the ACA.

A 40-year-old Suffolk County resident making $30,000 annually would receive 24 percent less in tax credits, while a 40-year-old making $50,000 would see a 128 percent boost in tax credits. Additionally, a 40-year-old making $75,000 annually would receive $3,000 in tax credits — under Obamacare no tax credits would be received.

Similarly, a Suffolk County resident who is aged at least 60 and earns $75,000 per year would receive a $4,000 tax credit under the proposed bill, despite being ineligible for a tax credit under Obamacare. A 60-year-old making $30,000 annually would receive a 2 percent increase in tax credits.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who has said in the past he would like to maintain certain aspects of Obamacare, like allowing people aged 26 or younger to remain on their parents’ health plans and coverage for people with preexisting conditions, weighed in on the Republican plan in an emailed statement through spokeswoman Jennifer DiSiena.

DiSiena reiterated Zeldin’s stance on kids remaining on parents plans and coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions, though she added he believes a smooth transition from the ACA to the new plan is the most important thing.

“Obamacare has resulted in higher premiums, higher deductibles, lost doctors and canceled policies, among many other challenges,” she said. “Deductibles are so high, many people now feel like they don’t even have insurance anymore. One-third of the counties in our country only have one option left under the exchange. That’s not choice. That’s a monopoly.”

“Deductibles are so high, many people now feel like they don’t even have insurance anymore. One-third of the counties in our country only have one option left under the exchange.”

—Lee Zeldin

DiSiena also sought to dispel what she called misconceptions being perpetuated about the new bill and what the policy might do to people’s coverage. She said no one will be kicked off Medicaid under the new bill, premiums might rise in the short term but are expected to be 10 percent lower by 2026 than their current levels, and the claim by the Congressional Budget Office that 24 million Americans covered under Obamacare would lose coverage can be attributed to people who were forced to purchase health care opting to go without.

DiSiena added Zeldin is generally supportive of the bill as written but intends to monitor proposed amendments.

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) was far less supportive during an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” March 14.

“We have to continue to point out that 24 million people are going to be kicked off, that their premiums are going to go up, that there’s a transfer of cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and raising premiums on senior citizens and others,” he said in the interview. “This is really a life and death thing.”

Suozzi’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Kevin Dahill, president and CEO of Suburban Hospital Alliance, an organization that represents the advocacy interests of Long Island health systems including St. Catherine of Siena in Smithtown and St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, issued a statement regarding the House bill March 13.

“The House bill neither truly repeals nor meaningfully replaces the Affordable Care Act,” Dahill said. “This is bad news for New York. … We cannot support this legislation in its current form.”

Chief Medical Officer at Huntington Hospital Michael Grosso said in an email his facility will continue to hold itself to the highest standards regardless of the federal health care law.

“That said, we must bear in mind as an informed citizenry that when effective, preventive health care is delayed or denied, society pays the price several times over,” Grosso said.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the bill today, March 23. House Republicans introduced several amendments to the original legislation earlier this week.

Rally participants listen to a speech Saturday in Huntington. Photo from Ron Widelec

With changes in health care looming thanks to the election of President Donald Trump (R), the issue took center stage in Huntington this past weekend, as more than 350 Long Island residents participated in a rally Feb. 25 to support the Affordable Care Act and advocate for a single-payer plan bill in Albany.

Organized by the group Long Island Activists with help from Our Revolution and the New York Progressive Action Network, the rally joined together residents from all nine New York State Senate districts.

Ron Widelec, a member of the LIA steering committee, said the event was intended to help educate more New Yorkers about the strengths of a Medicare for all system, as he said many misconceptions about the plan have been spread.

A single-payer or Medicare for all plan “is the only plan that actually brings us to a place where health care is a human right,” Widelec said in a phone interview. “We would see better results and it would [cost] less per person. We can cover everyone for less.”

A single-payer system requires a single-payer fund which all New Yorkers would pay into to cover health care costs of an individual, instead of through private insurers. In a single-payer system every citizen is covered, patients have the freedom to choose their own doctors and hospitals, and employers would no longer be responsible for health care costs.

The ACA established standards for health care in America when enacted in 2010, though it does not supersede state laws relating to health care.

Congressman Tom Suozzi speaks at the event. Photo from Ron Widelec

Martha Livingston, professor and chair of the Department of Public Health at SUNY Old Westbury said a Medicare for all system would be an improvement to the current system.

“We know from experience looking everywhere else it works better and costs less,” she said in a phone interview. The World Health Organization conducted a study on American health care in 2014, and cited one of the reasons the U.S. health system has high costs and poor outcomes includes a lack of universal health care.

“No one would have to make the tough choice between the cost of an EpiPen and feeding their family,” Widelec said, referring to the increase in cost of pharmaceutical products patients can’t opt to go without. Mylan Pharmaceuticals, the drug’s maker, drove the price of EpiPen up about $500 in recent years — some six times. Turing Pharmaceuticals did the same with Daraprim, a drug used by cancer and AIDS patients — although that price tag increased to $750 a pill from $13.50.

The Journal of the American Medical Association has confirmed the U.S. faces this trend of large increases in drug prices, more so than any other countries.

“Per capita prescription drug spending in the United States exceeds that in all other countries, largely driven by brand-name drug prices that have been increasing in recent years at rates far beyond the consumer price index,” the study said.

Livingston agreed the current system is flawed.

“Really what we want is fairness,” she said. “We’re the only country that doesn’t negotiate with insurance companies. We need to get rid of the profiteers standing between us and [health care].”

Aside from informing Long Islanders about the benefits of a Medicare for all system, the rally also focused on creating a game plan to help grow support for the New York Health Act, a bill passed in the 2015-16 New York State Assembly session but not in the New York State Senate.

The Assembly bill for the 2017-18 session, which is currently in committee, establishes the New York Health program, a single-payer health care system.

“The Legislature finds … all residents of the state have the right to health care,” the bill states. It acknowledges ACA helped bring improvements in health care and coverage to New Yorkers, however there are still many left without coverage. The legislation explicitly labels itself as a universal health plan with the intention to improve and create coverage for residents who are currently unable to afford the care they need.

“No one would have to make the tough choice between the cost of an EpiPen and feeding their family.” — Ron Widelec

If New York passed the law, residents would no longer have to pay premiums or co-pays, employers would not have to be responsible to provide health care — which currently costs business more than $1 billion annually, and all patients would be covered and could chose whatever doctor or hospital they wanted.

According to a new study by Gerald Friedman, chair of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst Economics Department, the cost of New York Health Act would be $45 billion less than what New York currently spends.

“Individuals often find that they are deprived of affordable care and choice because of decisions by health plans guided by the plan’s economic needs rather than their health care needs,” the bill states.

The New York Health Act is also in committee in the state Senate, where it has significantly less support.

“We want to flip some state Senate seats,” Widelec said. Participants also broke up into their state Senate districts to discuss plans of action to garner support for the bill in each area and put pressure on their elected leader at the end of the rally.

Steve Cecchini, a rally participant, said  many people are clearly in support of the bill.

“The only thing I learned was a lot of people were excited to hear about the New York Health Act,” he said in a phone interview. “One of the goals was to get people the tools they need to understand the act and talk about it. It’s really about getting enough support from the constituents. It’s ridiculous what we’re not getting and what we’re overpaying for right now.”

Widelec said there is a lot of misinformation about what a single-payer plan is, as many approach it as a socialist concept. But he affirmed the current system in not working and needs to be improved. According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. trailed more than 30 countries in life expectancy in 2015, and in a 2000 report by WHO, America was ranked 37 out of 191 countries for health care performance.

“It’s really exciting to see people inspired and activated,” Livingston said. “It’s looking to me like Long Islanders are eager to make a difference.”

The 3rd Congressional District U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) spoke at the rally, after meeting with the Long Island Activists group in January and signing a pledge to sponsor a single-payer bill if the Democratic Party retakes control of the Congress. He has said until that time he will continue to defend the ACA.

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi speaks during a town hall Feb. 23. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding & Alex Petroski

President Donald Trump’s (R) first month in office and items on his agenda thus far have sparked an activist uprising in blue and red districts alike across the United States. Thursday, two North Shore congressmen made themselves available to concerned constituents, though the formats were different.

First congressional district U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and 3rd congressional district U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) each hosted town hall events Feb. 23 to discuss issues with the people they represent, a trend that has caught on for leaders in nearly all 50 states in the weeks since Inauguration Day. Suozzi hosted nearly 400 residents at Mid Island Y Jewish Community Center in Plainview for about two and a half hours. Zeldin spoke directly to voters in their homes in a telephone town hall.

Suozzi listens to a question during a town hall Feb. 23. Photo by Kevin Redding

According to Zeldin, more than 9,000 people sat in on the hour-long call, which featured questions and interactive polls. More than 1,000 others streamed it online. The congressman began the call with an opening statement lasting nearly five minutes, which touched on improving American safety at home and abroad; growing the local economy; supporting veterans and first responders; improving education; repairing infrastructure; repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act; and safeguarding the environment. He then answered 10 questions from a combination of callers and those streaming the conversation on the internet, submitting written questions.

Groups of constituents have lobbied the congressman to host an in-person town hall in recent weeks, but have been unsuccessful. Changes have also been made to his office hour availability, which he attributed earlier in February to the actions of “liberal obstructionists.” Zeldin justified the decision to hold a telephone town hall rather than a conventional one during the call.

“For years telephone town halls have allowed me to reach the maximum amount of constituents interested in constructive dialogue,” he said. “This is a modern way to bring a town hall directly to your home.”

He evaluated the effectiveness of the format in an email through spokeswoman Jennifer DiSiena the following day.

“These outreach efforts with the public have proven to be extremely effective and allow him to productively reach the maximum amount of constituents who are interested in constructive dialogue,” she said. “It is true that liberal obstructionists cannot disrupt the call.”

A Facebook group called “Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin,” set up by constituents attempting to speak to the congressman face-to-face, which has more than 2,000 members, followed along with the call and held a discussion regarding Zeldin’s responses on the page. Several posters said they registered to be called on Zeldin’s website, but never received it, or received it after its commencement at 7 p.m.

A screen shot of the website used to stream Zeldin’s telephone town hall Feb. 23. Image from Zeldin’s website

A post asking if any questions were not addressed during the call received more than 100 responses. One constituent asked if the congressman would put pressure on the House Oversight Committee to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia. Another asked about the shrinking middle class and growing income inequality. Someone else asked, “What will Zeldin do to assure females have safe affordable birth control/reproductive rights?”

Zeldin was asked on the call, among several other questions, about his stance on the Trump administration’s reversal of transgender bathroom guidelines set by the Obama administration — he said he supported the reversal. Another question involved Trump’s slow response to anti-Semitic violence and demonstrations across the U.S. since election day — which Zeldin condemned, though added he appreciated Trump speaking up this week. Several questions came in concerning the ACA and what will take its place once repealed — the congressman said he supported the proposed Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, coverage for those with preexisting conditions, allowing kids to stay on parents’ plans until age 26, and would support a voucher program for veterans.

DiSiena addressed Zeldin’s plans going forward regarding a traditional town hall.

“Way too many of the people at the moment requesting town halls across the country are doing so with the purpose of disrupting the town hall without any interest at all in decorum,” she said.

Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Arizona), who was shot during an outdoor, public meeting with constituents in 2011, called on members of Congress to “face their constituents” and hold town halls in a tweet Feb. 23.

DiSiena said Zeldin is open to small meetings, though no in-person town hall is currently planned. DiSiena disclosed results of one of the five poll questions Zeldin posed to listeners during the call, showing most constituents, 23 percent, are concerned about health care above all other issues.

Conversely, Suozzi stood and engaged a large crowd of residents and activists, answering more than 30 questions on a variety of hot topics, including the repeal of the ACA, the relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Trump’s travel restriction executive order. He also voiced his disapproval of what’s happening in the White House, and called on those in attendance to “not hate Trump supporters” and instead turn their anger into something productive.

Seven-year-old Zachary Aquino asks Suozzi a question during a town hall Feb. 23. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I think this is as American as you can get … this is so inspiring and this country needs this type of engagement,” Suozzi told the crowd, saying in all his years of holding town hall meetings — both as a congressional candidate and mayor of Glen Cove — he’s never seen an attendance like what he had.

“We need to take all this energy and excitement that we’ve got and use it in a constructive fashion … to work together to win the battles,” he said. “Write letters to the editor, attend issues meetings, run for office, support people for local office. What we really need are reasonable Americans that will put their country before their party to help us to get Congressional support on [issues]. Don’t underestimate what’s working.”

A civil discourse on ideas and plenty of smiles and laughs, Suozzi’s session had a different tone than the heated ones across the country, in which angry constituents waged vocal war against Republican representatives.

Suozzi began the gathering by telling attendees — some of whom represented local activist groups like North Shore Indivisible, MoveOn.org, and Science Advocacy of Long Island — to be respectful and direct all comments to him.

Attendees raised questions about Trump’s ties to Russia, the release of the commander-in-chief’s taxes, gun violence, immigration, climate change and the state of health care.

One attendee, Jessica Meyer, who has cerebral palsy, asked the congressman if he would help those like her who fear people with disabilities might lose benefits with the potential repeal of the ACA.

“People with disabilities are getting lost in this conversation,” she said.

Suozzi responded to her concerns.

“I want you to know that I will fight tooth and nail to protect you, personally, and everybody in your situation, and I want to hear from everybody in this room who’s going to fight to protect Jessica,” Suozzi said.

Harry Arlin, a World War II and Korean War veteran from Huntington, said he lived briefly under Adolf Hitler in Germany and Joseph Stalin in Russia, though fled both countries.

“I’m too old to run again,” he said.

Seven-year-old Zachary Aquino echoed Arlin’s sentiments.

“I don’t think this is right having Trump as president, I think it’s really bad,” he said. “I don’t know how this happened — how we got stuck in this mess — but it’s good that we’re here today … this is a really valuable time. Fighting against Trump is very good. We’ve got to do this.”

A screen shot of the Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin Facebook page. Image from Facebook

When asked what he was going to do to restore one attendee’s faith in “American exceptionalism,” Suozzi pointed around the room.

“This is it — this is people who believe and should not walk out of here with anything but a stronger belief that by being involved, you can actually have an impact on things,” he said.

The White House has made claims recently to suggest some activists attending town halls are being paid to be there and rile up crowds, a sentiment which Zeldin echoed in a Feb. 18 Facebook post.

“Liberal obstructionists are disrupting, resisting and destructing public events all around America,” he wrote. “Our neighbors want to actually engage in substantive, productive, constructive dialogue, and the liberal obstructionists are spitting on them with their shameful shows for their own political theater.”

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