Congressman Francis Rooney faced alternating waves of cheers and boos during a town hall meeting on Wednesday.
A crowd of at least 400 gathered in the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church in Bonita Springs to listen to the congressman answer questions from local voters. Rooney often struggled to be heard over shouting attendees, standing ovations, and chants of “Lock him up!” referring to President Donald Trump. Criticism was repeatedly leveled at the congressman by questioners for his support of Trump, with whom Rooney said he will be having dinner on June 6th to discuss issues facing Florida.
“I hope these will be words you remember. President Trump will drag you down with him. But it’s not too late, and these people here are reminding you of that tonight,” said Jason Bouckman, an attendee who lives in Fort Myers.
The repeal of the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” and its possible replacement with the GOP’s American Health Care Act was the most popular topic of the night. The congressmen led by explaining what he saw as a major flaw that had doomed the ACA to failure.
“Less than half the people the Obama rocket scientists thought would sign up for health care or the exchanges signed up,” said Rooney. “The exchanges have been a dismal failure.”
Many questioners said that they believed the new GOP bill removed the requirement that those with pre-existing conditions receive healthcare coverage. Rooney said that these concerns were missguided.
“One of the most amazing mysteries in this AHCA discussion is how a narrative has come alive that is going to end coverage for pre-existing conditions,” said Rooney. “That is absolutely a falsehood.”
As it stands today, the GOP bill would leave the pre-existing conditions coverage requirement intact but allows individual states to obtain a waiver that removes that restriction provided alternative options like high-risk pools for those with serious medical issues are provided. The law would also remove the AHCA’ s unpopular individual healthcare mandate but create a “gap surcharge” of 30% for those who let their coverage lapse for more than 63 days in a year. This is meant to incentivize consumers to get and maintain health insurance coverage.
The bill has passed the House but still has yet to clear the Senate and significant changes could be made in the process.
Despite the raucous atmosphere, Rooney thanked attendees for being involved in political discourse.
“I deeply appreciate your passion, your differences of opinion, and your care for this county,” said Rooney. “We’re not going to agree on a lot of things, that’s just the way it is going to be. The fact is we all love America and we love our First Amendment rights.”
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