Jeff Jeans, a small business owner from Arizona and cancer survivor, confronted House Speaker Paul Ryan during a CNN town hall Thursday night over the future of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
Jeans said he was a lifelong Republican who worked on the campaigns of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and that he disliked the ACA when it was passed.
“Just like you, I was opposed to the Affordable Care Act,” Jeans told Ryan. “When it was passed, I told my wife we would close our business before I complied with this law.”
But, he said, the law saved his life. Soon after it passed, he was diagnosed with cancer and given six weeks to live. Unable to receive treatment unless he had insurance, he said he was able to get it through the Affordable Care Act.
“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I’m standing here today alive,” Jeans said. “Being both a small business person and someone with preexisting conditions, I rely on the Affordable Care Act to be able to purchase my own insurance. Why would you repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement?”
As Ryan began his answer, saying that the GOP plans to replace the law when repealing it, Jeans interrupted to add a message onto his question.
“Can I say one thing?” Jeans said. “I want to thank President Obama from the bottom of my heart, because I would be dead if it weren’t for him.”
Ryan said that Republicans plan to replace Obamacare with high-risk pools, which had been used by states prior to the ACA’s passing, so that Jeans and others could continue to get coverage. Health-policy experts have been wary of this plan due to the low enrollment and prohibitively high costs in previous state -level pools.
While Republicans have been pushing a repeal and replace of the law, Democrats and the Obama administration have been highlighting the positive effects of the law — using stories much like Jeans’ to try and get the GOP to preserve some of the more popular provisions of the law.
The first step to the repeal of the ACA was passed by the Senate early Thursday morning and will be voted on by the House on Friday.
Watch the exchange from CNN below:
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