Coff­man con­stituents’ fo­cus still health care

“I just think we can do bet­ter,” con­gress­man says

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Brian Ea­son

HEN­DER­SON» For Repub­li­can lead­ers on Capi­tol Hill hop­ing to put a bit­ter de­bate over health care be­hind them, U.S. Rep. Mike Coff­man’s town hall in Hen­der­son on Tues­day night won’t pro­vide much as­sur­ance that the rest of the coun­try is ready to do the same.

Coff­man got an ear­ful from con­ser­va­tives and lib­er­als alike at a meet­ing at Prairie View High School that was at times un­ruly. He fielded an ar­ray of ques­tions on Rus­sia, fed­eral spend­ing, North Korea and im­mi­gra­tion.

But much like the mod­er­ate Repub­li­can’s last town hall in April, the thing his con­stituents wanted to talk — and fre­quently shout — about the most was health care.

One woman said her hus­band was alive be­cause of con­sumer pro­tec­tions put in place by the Af­ford­able Care Act, of­ten called Oba­macare. An­other said her 26-year-old daugh­ter was driven to bank­ruptcy prior to the ACA, be­cause she couldn’t af­ford the high costs of a few med­i­cal pro­ce­dures she needed.

One health care worker re­counted the story of one of her el­derly pa­tients who saw a clip of Congress de­bat­ing health care on TV, turned to her and said, “They’re try­ing to kill us.”

“I don’t think a 93-year-old woman should have to fear for her life,” said Melissa Ben­jamin, the health care worker.

Con­ser­va­tives, mean­while, im­plored Coff­man to sup­port the re­peal of Oba­macare af­ter the ef­fort fell apart in the U.S. Se­nate and to con­strain fed­eral spend­ing — in­clud­ing on Med­i­caid.

“I just think we can do bet­ter. We can do bet­ter,” Coff­man said at one point, draw­ing a shouted re­ply from an an­gry con­stituent: “How?”

At that, Coff­man opened up with some pol­icy specifics, point­ing to his work on the House’s “Prob­lem Solver Cau­cus,” which Mon­day un­veiled a bi­par­ti­san plan to sta­bi­lize pre­mi­ums on the nonem­ployer mar­kets by en­sur­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to sub­si­dize the costs of Oba­macare plans — some­thing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has threat­ened to dis­rupt.

The group also wants to cre­ate a sta­bi­liza­tion fund that would help states re­duce the cost of pre­mi­ums, par­tic­u­larly for those with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions.

“The in­di­vid­u­als that have to buy their own in­sur­ance, that don’t have gov­ern­ment (in­sur­ance), that don’t have em­ployer-based plans, those are the peo­ple that are pay­ing the tough­est price right now,” Coff­man said.

Coff­man’s an­swers on health care, though, did lit­tle to ap­pease the crowd. Lib­er­als and con­ser­va­tives alike fre­quently shouted over Coff­man, as well as each other, when some­one of­fered an opin­ion they dis­agreed with.

At one point, a woman on the verge of tears com­plained that the coun­try had lost its abil­ity to work to­gether.

In re­sponse, Coff­man flashed the in­de­pen­dent streak that re­peat­edly has got­ten him elected in a heav­ily Demo­cratic district, telling the crowd that he was work­ing with Democrats on a le­gal brief op­pos­ing ger­ry­man­der­ing — a ref­er­ence to a pend­ing Supreme Court case on the is­sue stem­ming from a re­dis­trict­ing ef­fort that ben­e­fited Repub­li­cans in Wis­con­sin.

“Par­ti­san­ship is in my view the great­est prob­lem in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.,” Coff­man said.

Pho­tos by John Leyba, The Den­ver Post

Casey DiGae­tano of Aurora lis­tens to U.S. Rep. Mike Coff­man dur­ing his town hall Tues­day at Prairie View High School in Hen­der­son.

Coff­man’s au­di­ence was at times un­ruly Tues­day night.

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