GOP Reps. Rod Blum, Elise Stefanik Get An Earful At Town Halls Over Health Care Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York was one of the few Republican House members to hold a town hall following passage of the American Health Care Act. Her constituents were not happy.

At Town Hall Meeting, Republican Lawmakers Get An Earful Over Health Care

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So a moderate House Republican from upstate New York is the latest lawmaker to be heckled at a town hall meeting. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik was one of a handful of last-minute yes votes on the House bill to repeal and replace major parts of the Affordable Care Act. Last night, Stefanik got an earful about that from her constituents, as North Country Public Radio's Zach Hirsch reports.

ZACH HIRSCH, BYLINE: The town hall was at a small public television station in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Because of limits on space, a hundred people chosen by lottery were allowed in for the live taping. Many of those who weren't selected protested outside.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) Shame, shame, shame.

HIRSCH: Shame, they chanted, referring to Stefanik's vote in favor of the health care bill. The protesters got there early to greet Stefanik, but the congresswoman arrived even earlier. She welcomed the audience in the studio saying she looks forward to a respectful give and take.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ELISE STEFANIK: I know there's a lot of questions on people's minds. And I know that many people particularly want to hear about health care. So I'm looking forward to answering those questions.

HIRSCH: It quickly got rowdy, though never out of control. When Stefanik answered one question about, quote, "why the rich are getting tax breaks under the House Republicans' health care bill."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEFANIK: It is true Obamacare increased taxes on Americans across the board on cost of health care.

HIRSCH: Some in the crowd detected a dodge, and they started heckling. Moderator Thom Hallock tried to rein them in.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

THOM HALLOCK: OK, folks. Let's...

STEFANIK: So our legislation...

HALLOCK: Let's keep this in check, OK?

HIRSCH: No one other than Stefanik had anything good to say about the bill. Nina Matteau is a breast cancer survivor. She said the GOP plan includes loopholes that threaten people with pre-existing conditions.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NINA MATTEAU: Can you explain how this constitutes better health care at lower premiums as promised?

(APPLAUSE)

STEFANIK: There is language in the American Health Care Act that explicitly prohibits insurers from not accepting patients that have pre-existing conditions. You can go to passthebill.gop and read the actual text because that was an important provision.

HIRSCH: The Republican plan does give insurance companies more flexibility when dealing with customers with pre-existing conditions. It also rolls back federal support for the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, something else that prompted jeers from the crowd. The audience wasn't all critical. Some applauded Stefanik for taking climate change seriously, but she didn't win over the room. Several people on their way out said Stefanik wasn't really listening, and her answers seemed canned. Stefanik said she heard the frustration.

She also said repealing Obamacare was one of her earliest campaign promises. And there are some areas where she's going to disagree with her constituents. For NPR News, I'm Zach Hirsch in Plattsburgh, N.Y.

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