Health and Science

GOP lawmakers get earful from voters with Obamacare fears

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va.
Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

Hear no worries about Obamacare repeal, speak no worries about Obamacare repeal.

A Republican member of Congress who had scheduled meet-and-greets to hear her constituents' views on Obamacare — which the GOP plans to repeal and replace — reportedly ducked those meetings last weekend.

And the leading Obamacare-defense group Protect Our Care Coalition said that's part of a pattern of Republican-elected officials avoiding hearing from people about the fears surrounding the undoing the Affordable Care Act.

Protesters demonstrate during the 2017 "Congress of Tomorrow" Joint Republican Issues Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. January 26, 2017.
Mark Makela | Reuters

"Republicans hiding from constituents can't hide from having no plan," that group's email to reporters said Thursday.

Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., did not show up at two "mobile office hours" events she had scheduled at separate grocery stores — where dozens of people were waiting to talk to her about the Obamacare repeal, according to Politico.

One Fairfax, Virginia, resident, Politico noted, wrote on his Facebook page, "A friend just came back from a Comstock event in Oakton — Barbara was supposed to meet constituents there to talk about the repeal of Obamacare AND SHE NEVER SHOWED UP."

"THIS IS SHAMEFUL… If you're in the 10th district, call her office and let her know that we won't be tolerating her not doing her job anymore," wrote that resident, James McCeney, on the page of liberal activist group Our Revolution Northern Virginia.

Comstock's staff told Politico that the invitation saying Comstock would be present at the town halls was "in error," and "should have just said staff."

On Wednesday, staffers in the Chicago district office of Illinois Republican congressman Rep. Peter Roskam told 16 constituents there they would have to reschedule a meeting with staff about their concerns regarding Obamacare after staff noticed a reporter was present.

"I was stunned at what happened," one of those constituents, Sandra Alexander, told the The Beacon-News newspaper, after telling the staffer that the group was willing to leave the reporter outside.

"He just ran off," Alexander said of that staffer. "They never told me that the media could not be here, and the reporter was willing to leave so that we could have our meeting," she said.

Rep. Dave Brat, a Republican from Virginia, told a meeting of conservative groups on Saturday, "Since Obamacare and these issues have come up, the women are in my grill no matter where I go."

"They come up — 'When is your next town hall?'" Brat reportedly said, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "And believe me, it's not to give positive input."

In a Facebook post, Brat said he will have town halls meetings. Just not yet.

"Over the past couple of weeks my office has been inundated with phone calls, and emails and comments on social media requesting a town hall meeting, and believe me, I fully intend to have plenty of town halls that are open and transparent as soon as our first 100 days agenda is implemented and we come up for a breath of air," Brat wrote on Facebook.

On Tuesday, nearly 50 people protesting the planned repeal of the ACA were arrested after staging a sit-in outside of the office of GOP senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.

One of those arrested, Missouri resident Scott Fines, told that his 2-year-old son, who was born without his stomach being connected to his mouth, "would die" without health insurance.

"And without the ACA, we would not be able to get him insurance," Fines said. "He cost $750,000 in his first five months of life. There's no way an insurance company is ever going agree to cover a child like him. He is a walking pre-existing condition."

In recent days, Republican leaders have begun using the word "repair" when they talk about their plans to repeal and replace Obamacare.

"If we're going to repair the U.S. health-care system ... you must repeal and replace Obamacare," House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., said on the Fox News show "Fox and Friends" on Thursday. "To repair the American health-care system, you have to repeal and replace this law and that's what we're doing."

Meaghan Smith, spokeswoman for the Protect Our Care Coalition, said Thursday, "Along with trying to hide the fact that they're trying to rip away health care from 30 million people with new focus-grouped word changes, the political fallout from repealing the ACA is getting to be such a disaster for Republicans that they're now hiding from their own constituents."

"People are scared about what will happen to their health care if Republicans blow up our health care system, and Republicans can't hide from the reality that they simply have no plan," Smith said.