By Nadia Prupis for CommonDreams.
“Single Payer! Single Payer!”
Rep. Tom MacArthur, who helped craft amendment that secured enough votes for bill to pass House, grilled for five hours over GOP healthcare.
Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), one of the chief architects of the GOP’s healthcare plan, faced five hours of questions and booing from hundreds of constituents at a forum Wednesday night in his hometown of Willingboro as “Payback Recess” continued.
MacArthur, who helped craft the amendment to the American Healthcare Act (AHCA) that gutted protections for preexisting conditions—appeasing enough hard-line conservative lawmakers to get the bill passed in the House of Representatives—became a prime target of the resistance movement, with more than 300 people in the crowd at the John F. Kennedy Community Center and more protesting outside.
“This is your healthcare bill. It was dead in the water and could have stayed dead in the water. It was done,” said Derek Reichenbecher, a teacher from Point Pleasant who told MacArthur he had a heart condition and fears facing the insurance marketplace if he loses his job. “You brought it back from the dead. It’s yours. You own it.”
Geoff Ginter of Point Beach, whose wife survived a cancer battle, told MacArthur, “You are the reason I can’t sleep at night.”
Outside, many protesters lay down in the parking lot with fake headstones. Above them, a plane circled trailing an anti-MacArthur message.
Many took the opportunity to grill MacArthur about the need for single payer healthcare, an issue which has gained significant traction in recent years—and especially over the last few months. (Indeed, a record 104 House Democrats signed on to co-sponsor a “Medicare-for-All” bill introduced in April.)
As MacArthur attempted to say that the insurance market was “collapsing,” an audience member shouted, “Because you drilled holes in it!” and a spontaneous chant began: “Single payer! Single payer! Single payer! Single payer!”
Watch the moment at 19:58 below:
“Some of you want single-payer across the board? Medicare for all?” MacArthur later asked sarcastically. Wild applause followed.
The sophomore lawmaker also spent much of the evening attempting to convince constituents that his bill does not touch one of the most popular provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare), which prevents insurers from refusing coverage to people with preexisting conditions. He also insisted that the bill does not discriminate based on gender or classify sexual assault or domestic violence as preexisting conditions.
But his claims rang hollow to a crowd that former mayor Lavonne Bebler Johnson described as “one of the most educated audiences I have ever been around.”
“You’re a liar. Have you read your own bill?” one audience member yelled.
“How did it pass your conscience to allow rape to be considered a preexisting condition, forcing women to choose between justice and protecting their affordable healthcare?” asked 18-year-old Joseph Zetkulic, prompting many to stand up and applaud.
After the marathon town hall ended, MacArthur compared the response to the healthcare bill to the discredited claims that Obamacare would set up death panels for the elderly, indicating both groups were “insane.”
MacArthur was also booed for his responses to questions about the investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election.