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12 May 2017, 12:15 | Ignacio Ramos
Republican who helped pass health overhaul meeting voters
WILLINGBORO, N.J. (AP) A Republican who played a key role in helping the GOP-led U.S. House pass an Affordable Care Act replacement bill faced angry voters inside and outside a town hall on Wednesday. "I'm going to tell you because this affects my perspective on this issue of health care".
By then the crowd had thinned. He said that instead he would wait for current congressional investigations to run their course.
Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), the co-author of an amendment that rescued the House Republicans' health-care bill from the doldrums, told his audience that he'd come to Willingboro - a majority African-American town between Philadelphia and Trenton - for a reason.
In another exchange, MacArthur cast his role in helping craft the bill as not allowing flawless be the enemy of the good ― arguing that members of Congress don't always "vote on the bill they wish was in front of them". Still, MacArthur went person by person, hearing out every question.
But the message of the evening was one that the bill's opponents are determined to get out whether their congressman shows up or not, and it is not likely to dissipate after five hours.
The people in the room interrupted him just as he mentioned them. Another yelled, "Answer our questions".
"Shame", someone yelled. "Enough", another shouted.
At one point when he attempted to discuss the legislation, the crowd started to chant "single payer!" He's the New Jersey Republican congressman who offered up the aptly-named health care amendment that allows states to opt out of pre-existing condition rules set in place under Obamacare.
At another point, a constituent asked everyone with a pre-existing condition to stand up.
"You have been the single greatest threat to my family in the entire world", he bellowed into the microphone, jabbing his finger in MacArthur's direction to cheers and applause.
Geoff Ginter's wife Colette is free from cancer, but they're anxious that the illness will return and that they won't be able to pay for her treatment should he lose his job as certified medical assistant.
"First words you said to us were, 'I'm not Donald Trump.' Well, I got an orange wig, you may as well put it on".
"You are the reason I can't sleep", he added, slamming the moderate Republican for working with "an orange-haired buffoon" in the White House.
"What I'm anxious about is, if I lose my job, I suddenly am no longer in the market, I'm no longer covered, my governor who is not a friend of people like me right now decides to opt out".
"I am sympathetic of your mother".
"We're not trying to take insurance away from anyone", Rep. MacArthur said.
"It's not true at all", Hicks said. "I wonder, I really wonder how any of you would perform in Congress with that attitude".
"I did nothing to cause my fibromyalgia", she said. Without health care coverage, I'm dead.
The loophole in the Republican bill could lead women to routinely pay more for health insurance, as they did before the Affordable Care Act.
MacArthur said he planned on things being different. "He doesn't care about people who can't afford coverage". He heard from a 17-year-old who wanted to know-"yes or no"-whether the Republican bill would allow an insurer to treat rape as a preexisting condition. I will not reduce [rape] to calling it a pre-existing condition", he told a high school student". He insisted under his amendment insurance companies could not discriminate by gender.
But, as with most things in health care, the reality is too complex to reduce to yes and no questions, or simple statements. Several people expressed dissatisfaction with President Trump and his administration. "Folks, I didn't come here to defend the president tonight".
"When are you going to decide to be an American and not a politician?" a man asked at the end of a long diatribe about Trump. Another one referenced the ongoing investigations into President Donald Trump's campaign's connections to Russian Federation.
"I am not here to defend Donald Trump", the congressman replied, but he added that he did not see a special prosecutor as a "magic silver bullet". The crowd, furious, drowned him out with boos.
"I don't want a health care system where the only one making decisions is federal bureaucrats", he said. "For every one of you that feels as strong as you do, there are more than you that feel the other way..."
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