Congressional hearing held in Gastonia on Obamacare

Published: Nov. 21, 2013 at 11:26 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 21, 2013 at 11:26 PM EST
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GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Congressman Darrell Issa, a Republican from California and a staunch critic of the Obama Administration, is taking part in the first of a series of hearings in Gastonia called "Obamacare Implementation: Sticker Shock of Increased Premiums for Health Care Coverage."

The hearing is happening in our area because we've seen some of the highest increases in premiums in the country, and The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which Issa chairs, says it wants to investigate how the Affordable Care Act is really affecting people.

The meeting got off to a contentious start on Friday, with people complaining that they wont get a chance to be heard. People were told they would be removed from the meeting if they spoke out of turn.

Residents were angry because Issa picked the five witnesses that we will hear from, all residents of North Carolina.

Allison Ward will NOT be among them. A proponent of the ACA, she wrote this letter to Issa, saying "I want to testify for one reason. I cannot do this by myself. I cannot afford healthcare."

"I haven't heard any word back," Ward says.

And she probably won't. A representative from Issa's office says all speakers had to be vetted in advance...that the format tomorrow will not be a town hall...that they're trying to keep the hearing short - about two hours.

But Ward says her message is important.  The ACA offers her insurance she can afford for the first time in years.

"My president has said I hear you, I'm going to help you and frankly the way I see it is that other people are getting in the way," she says.

Dana Wilson is another Charlotte resident who wants to speak, but has not gotten a response to her request. As a teenager, she was diagnosed with MS.

"No one would insure me at all," Wilson says.

But the ACA will finally change that.

"I think if it's a true hearing than all sides should be heard," she says, "and they don't want to hear us."

Both women say their ultimate fear is that all the negativity surrounding the ACA could somehow result in a repeal of the law.

Issa did not respond to requests for an interview, but a rep from his office did say that no Democrats on the House Overview committee requested any witnesses other than those Issa chose.