GASTONIA, N.C. - As the Affordable Care Act rollout continues to plague the Obama administration, Americans are feeling the impact of the bill across the country, according to testimony by local residents at a field hearing Friday.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee packed the courthouse here for the first of four field hearings scheduled in the coming weeks to scrutinize the implementation of the president's signature bill.
"Taxpayers have a right to know what they get from their government," Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said. "We're not here today to question [the Affordable Care] Act or its validity. Why we are here today is to review what is happening in light of its rollout."
Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., said his constituents have struggled with healthcare implementation, and that "few states have been as hard-hit by Obamacare's broken promises as North Carolina."
"Through the first four weeks, 1,662 North Carolinians managed to select a plan on healthcare.gov," McHenry said. "Yet, over 180,000 North Carolinians have received notices that their policies, the ones that they chose and liked, are being cancelled."
Several witnesses testified that the impact of the health care law has been felt in Gastonia, a small town outside of Charlotte built on small business.
Dan Waters, the president of a local insurance agency, says his clients have seen their monthly costs "more than [double.]"
"Causes of frustration for our clients increased exponentially," Waters said.
Sherry Overby, director of the Belmont Crisis Pregnancy Center, testified that she has also seen her healthcare costs increase dramatically.
"My medically healthy insurance premium for 2013 is $395.60. Beginning in January 2014, my renewal rate will be $713.11," which she says is higher than her mortgage and second mortgage combined.
Businessman Tav Gauss told the committee that the Obamacare rollout has impacted his hiring decisions.
"Businesses are hesitant to invest in any people, plant, or equipment," Gauss said. "They are not hiring people because of the unknown costs of Obamacare."
The uncertainty has caused Gauss to cut back on full-time positions in favor of more part-time jobs without benefits.
"I am creating more part-time positions that will be for 28 or 29 hours per week, and making sure my seasonal or part-time help stays under 29 hours per week," Gauss said.
Under the Affordable Care Act, Gauss is required to provide full insurance benefits for any employee working more than 30 hours per week.
No Democrats attended the field hearing. Democrat Elijah Cummings, D-Md., issued a statement in response to the hearing.
"Rather than engaging in a destructive political exercise with the ultimate goal of tearing down the Affordable Care Act, promoting misinformation, and eliminating health insurance for tens of millions of people, the Committee should support constructive efforts to help educate and assist families who urgently need medical care and now have a chance to obtain it," Cummings wrote.