WARETOWN, N.J. (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur promised a packed and mostly civil town hall meeting that he would review his party’s Affordable Care Act repeal-and-replacement plan but said that he had not seen the legislation.
Monday’s town hall meeting came as word was breaking that House leaders were introducing their plan and about a week after other members of Congress were bombarded at town halls by protesters angry with Republican President Donald Trump’s agenda.
The congressman told constituents he voted against starting the repeal process and opposes ending health care for about 21 million people across the country who gained coverage under Democratic former President Barack Obama’s law.
“This is probably the issue of our time,” he told the seated crowd at an Ocean County fire hall.
He said he recently spoke to Republican Gov. Chris Christie about the effects of ending Medicaid expansion and the governor gave him a “pretty dire prediction” on the effect of ending the expansion in New Jersey.
About 800,000 residents got health insurance coverage through the law, known frequently as Obamacare, thanks to Medicaid expansion or the marketplaces created under the law.
MacArthur told the crowd he favors parts of the law, such as letting children stay on their parents’ plans until they’re 26 years old, requiring coverage for pre-existing conditions and keeping up to 90 percent of a federal match for Medicaid expansion. But he says high deductibles effectively mean some families can’t afford coverage. He didn’t put forward a plan to lower costs.
A constant theme during the two-hour town hall was MacArthur casting himself as staunchly bipartisan.
“We’ve got to get past ‘I just see it my way, and you see it your way,'” he said.
Some of the loudest cheers came when a voter in the district called on Trump to release his taxes and for MacArthur to support an investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.
MacArthur said Trump should release his taxes because he promised he would, but he stopped short of saying he would back legislation requiring it. He also said he wanted House and Senate Intelligence Committee and FBI inquiries into Russia to play out before making firmer calls.
“I know you feel that way, but I’m not there yet,” he said.
House committees could begin hearings on the new legislation this week, but divisions remain and GOP success is not guaranteed.
The plan would repeal the statute’s unpopular fines on people who don’t carry health insurance. It would replace income-based subsidies the law provides to help millions of Americans pay premiums with age-based tax credits.
The bill would continue Obama’s expansion of Medicaid to additional low-earning Americans until 2020. Beginning then, states adding Medicaid recipients would no longer receive the additional federal funds the statute has provided.
Some pro-Trump and anti-Trump pickets stood outside the meeting. Chants from the Trump critics of “no concealed carry” were answered by calls of “concealed carry now” by those carrying signs reading “We support our president.”
MacArthur is the second Republican congressman to hold in-person town halls. Rep. Leonard Lance held a packed event last month in Branchburg. Rep. Frank LoBiondo has been holding smaller constituent meetings.
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