Republican lawmaker gets drubbing over health reform
Willingboro (United States) (AFP)
Tirades, yells and cries of "liar" lit up a town hall meeting in New Jersey, where for five hours furious Americans tore into a Republican congressman for attempting to repeal Obamacare.
Tom MacArthur came home to his swing district to face the music Wednesday after helping to write the amendment that allowed a controversial health reform bill to pass the lower house last week.
But if health care was the focus, the largely hostile audience vented general outrage at President Donald Trump, taking issue with his temperament, his sacking of the FBI director and investigations into whether his campaign colluded with Russia in last year's election.
Hour after hour, the polarization of US politics was laid bare as the former insurance broker was harangued by a crowd of several hundred in the largely Democrat town of Willingboro, northeast of Philadelphia.
"Nobody with a pre-existing condition will either be declined coverage or priced out," insisted MacArthur, defending the bill. "That is a lie," shot back a woman as the crowd groaned.
"Folks I didn't come here to defend a president tonight," said the congressman at one point, pleading with hecklers to keep quiet.
Outside the venue dozens of protesters held up posters reading "Killer Tom" and "People without health care die!" near a skeleton.
Inside certified medical assistant Geoff Ginter, 47, stole the show from the front row, subjecting a red-faced MacArthur to a 10-minute monologue lashing the health bill as "immoral."
- 'Greatest threat' -
"You have been the single greatest threat to my family in the entire world," he bellowed into the microphone, jabbing his finger in MacArthur's direction to cheers and applause.
The father from Pine Beach said his wife lives in fear of her cancer returning and their two children have cardiac and thyroid conditions.
"I will not forgive, I will not forget," he yelled, explaining that he lives in fear of losing his job and not being able to afford health coverage if the bill passes.
"You are the reason I can't sleep," he added, slamming the moderate Republican for working with "an orange-haired buffoon" in the White House.
Republicans blame Obamacare for sending insurance premiums soaring while reducing options for millions. Those who passed the bill says it is a necessary reform.
But Democrats say the law helped 20 million Americans gain health coverage and saved thousands of lives by barring insurers from protecting people with pre-existing conditions.
"I hear people shouting out vulgarities," hit back MacArthur after being interrupted an umpteenth time. "This is part of what's wrong in America, there's no civil discourse," he added.
"You don't like what somebody says and they're an idiot?"
- Masochism -
Several expressed incredulity that he could be responsible for the bill after his mother died of cancer when he was four years old and his daughter, who had special needs, died aged 11.
"I have a great deal of admiration for your tolerance for masochism. You've really taken a beating tonight," said one woman. As the event dragged late into the night, many people drifted away.
When the congressman ignored yes or no questions about whether the legislation considered rape a pre-existing condition, the audience broke into chants of "answer the question," clapping in unison.
Videographer Bob Finkelstein, 49, who grew up in New Jersey and lives 40 minutes away, says his medication for multiple sclerosis costs $80,000 a year, the vast majority of which is covered by Obamacare.
"I absolutely could not afford the health care that I'm going to need if this repeal goes through," he told AFP.
"If it starts up again because I can't afford my medication I could get paralyzed, I could die an early death," he added.
Back in the room it was left to a frustrated MacArthur to insist that not everyone in his district, which voted for Trump, shared the anger.
"No matter what I do, may be half the people will be disappointed with me," he said shortly before the meeting drew to a close at 11:20pm.
© 2017 AFP