LEXINGTON Republican U.S. Congressman Andy Barr faced 600 or so mostly angry constituents here Monday night at a town hall meeting dominated by questions about the Affordable Care Act and Republicans’ plan to replace it with their own plan.
There were a few Barr supporters – one young man in his 20s complained his health insurance increased by $1,350 after passage of the ACA, or Obamacare, as Barr and Republicans prefer to call it.
But they were mostly outnumbered by those opposing Barr’s positions on health care, taxes, and immigration, often reacting to his answers with jeers.
Barr said afterward the town hall wasn’t as fierce as others he’s held across his 19-county Sixth District, and he reminded reporters and the crowd that President Donald Trump carried the district with 58 percent of the vote last fall.
Barr began the evening with a power-point explanation of the American Health Care Act – some are already calling it Trumpcare – contending it will produce competition among insurance companies that in turn should lower premiums.
He also praised the bill’s efforts to halt the increase in Medicaid by giving states block-grant or other flexible funding mechanisms to offer the government insurance for the poor and disabled. That produced one of the loudest and most sustained negative reactions of the night.
One woman, who identified herself as Amanda, said the ACA and expanded Medicaid program “literally saved my life.”
Barr was unrelenting in his criticism of the ACA, often citing anecdotes of constituents who’ve told him they can’t afford their insurance or doctors who won’t accept Medicaid. He cited data he says indicates huge increases in insurance premiums – but he had no answer for a woman who quoted larger premium increases during the years prior to passage of the ACA.
Another woman, a physician, told Barr the number of her clinic’s patients without insurance had declined from 40 percent to 5 percent since passage of the ACA. Others begged Barr to improve the ACA rather than scrapping it and replacing it.
Attendees were issued two cards as they entered – a green one on which was printed “agree” and a red one with “disagree” printed on them. The only time the green cards outnumbered the red were when the crowd endorsed statements from those lined up to ask Barr questions.
Another woman asked Barr to “think about the people and work for us rather than for party.”
Barr told her – and later insisted to reporters – that’s exactly what he is doing, trying to listen to his constituents and vote for legislation which best serves their needs.
“Every single day I am working for all the people (of his district),” Barr told her.
The crowd was no happier when Barr told them the Republican health care plan includes a $1.1 trillion tax cut – several people yelling out that it would benefit only the rich.
Afterward, Barr told reporters he doesn’t hold the town hall meetings because of politics but because he won his seat in part because the district’s voters thought his predecessor, Democrat Ben Chandler, didn’t stay in close touch with constituents.
Nor does he think the uptick in interest from Democrats after Trump’s surprise election poses a special risk for his 2018 re-election chances like the tea party uprising posed for Democrats in 2010, again pointing out Trump won the district with 58 percent of the vote.