Coffman constituents’ focus still health care
“I just think we can do better,” congressman says
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.
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.