'Don't repeal Obamacare, improve it': Republicans face wrath at town-hall events

Republicans members of Congress, away from Washington for the Presidents Day week, are getting an earful as constituents have come out in force to voice displeasure for some of the party’s particularly the plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa held an event on Tuesday in which constituents voiced concerns about losing coverage if the law better known as Obamacare is repealed.

“I’m on Obamacare. If it wasn’t for Obamacare we wouldn’t be able to afford insurance,” said Chris Peterson, a farmer from Grassley’s state. “With all due respect, sir, you’re the man that talked about the death panel. We’re going to create one big death panel in this country if people can’t afford insurance.”

The remark was in regard to Grassley’s claim when the law passed that a provision of the law that analysed the economic benefit of drugs for Medicare was akin to a “death panel,” a claim that was widely debunked.

“Don’t repeal Obamacare, improve it,” the constituent added.

Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina faced similar questions at a town-hall event in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, just outside of Charleston. According to the Charleston Post and Courier, signs saying “Save the ACA” were posted around the meeting, and the lawmakers faced questions about a wide range of policies coming from President Donald Trump’s administration.

The recent town halls mirror those held by other GOP politicians earlier in the month that featured impassioned defences of the ACA and anger over the GOP plan to drastically change the healthcare law.

Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee and Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah also faced questions about their desire to repeal Obamacare.

One town hall participant in Tennessee told Black that he needed coverage from the ACA to “make sure that I don’t die.”

The Tampa Bay Times reported that a gathering with Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis earlier this month was similarly fiery, with constituent Evan Thornton pleading with the GOP lawmaker for his life.

“I’m an independent who voted for you,” Thornton said to Bilirakis according to the Times. “Please don’t take my life away. Please don’t let me die.”

The strident defences of the law come as public opinion has shifted on the ACA. Recent polls suggest that more Americans are in favour of the law than against it, favouring slight changes rather than a large overhaul. In fact, some of the polls have marked the ACA at a high point in popularity.

Most of the concerns brought up in the town halls appear to be related to the more than 23 million who are estimated to have gained coverage from various provisions of the ACA. Constituents, along with Democratic lawmakers, have argued that any significant repeal and replace of Obamacare could endanger the coverage for some or all of those people.

While Trump has promised to make sure everyone currently covered under the law receives coverage, most Republicans have emphasised they are targeting access to care not a guarantee of coverage.

Despite disagreements between GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced on Thursday that the House Republican leaders would be introducing their version of a repeal and replacement bill when Congress reconvenes next week.

For his part, Trump dismissed the rash of town-hall protests in a Tuesday evening tweet.

“The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists,” he wrote. “Sad!”

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