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Rep. Tom MacArthur, the New Jersey Republican who came up with the brilliant idea of allowing states to opt out of the Affordable Care Act's requirements that insurance cover essential health benefits and protections for people with preexisting conditions (like having ever been pregnant, a serious medical no-no), held a town hall in Willingboro Wednesday night, and it sure lived up to what we're proposing as the new Trump Administration motto: That Probably Could Have Gone Better. We'll give MacArthur credit for a couple things: He showed up for the town hall in a part of his district that mostly didn't vote for him -- his office preemptively noted only 12% in the town supported him in November -- and he stayed a full five hours to listen to angry people yelling at him about what his brainchild is likely to do to them and their families. We can't give him much credit for any of his answers, really, but at least he didn't chicken out or run away.


The 300 seats in the meeting hall were filled, and the walls were lined with people standing, and outside, hundreds more people were there to protest the AHCA, complete with a "die in" and cardboard headstones. Ann Vardeman of New Jersey Citizen Action, which helped organize the protest before the event, called the AHCA "a cruel bill, an immoral bill, and this was an unconscionable bill," promising "His constituents will remember his betrayal." Or at least in the precincts where he lost in 2016 anyway. The precincts he won may keep celebrating how brilliantly he screwed those losers in red states (we can't see blue-leaning New Jersey voting to take the waivers, but if governors make the decision alone, then yeah, Chris Christie might remember his job and stop by the state long enough to throw people off insurance).

MacArthur, of course, insisted he and his Republican colleagues had to burn down health insurance in order to save it, because of course Obamacare simply doesn't work -- after all, even supporters say it needs improvements, which is exactly the same as it being an abject failure. MacArthur is very certain the AHCA's language on preexisting conditions won't affect many people at all, which is very optimistic and utterly at odds with a study from Avalere Health, which estimated that the High Risk Pools would only cover a fraction -- about 5 percent -- of people with preexisting conditions who would be booted from regular insurance under AHCA's waiver scheme. Maybe some more if additional funding were added, but that would involve Republicans spending money on helping people buy health insurance, which would make repealing the ACA almost pointless, outside of those sweet, sweet tax cuts.

Now that we have it on the record that MacArthur's plan -- if passed by the Senate, which it won't be -- is mean-spirited garbage that will make people sicker and lead to people dying from treatable or preventable illnesses, let's get this out of the way: Everybody has a right and an excellent reason to detest MacArthur. That said, it was tacky and cruel of people at the town hall to boo him when he told the story of his own daughter, who was born with special needs, dying at the age of eleven and being taken off life support. He started to say "So if you think I don't care about health care..." and was shouted down. Yes, invoking his daughter may have been misguided given the effects of his bill on others' kids, but mocking dead children is not something we can get behind as a categorical imperative. You just don't. Plus, it draws attention from the nine fulltime bloggers at Twitchy and makes the protesters look like monsters. That's mob behavior crap, and we say the hell with it, yes, even though MacArthur's crappy bill cuts spending for special needs kids.

As for the rest of the town hall: It was raucous and angry, full of people telling MacArthur how the AHCA is likely to affect them. Derek Reichenbecher, who has a heart condition, worried what the effects of MacArthur's bill might be for him:

"This is your health care bill. It was dead in the water. It could have stayed dead in the water and now it's the MacArthur Amendment that brought this thing forward," said Derek Reichenbecher.

"What I'm worried about is, if I lose my job, I suddenly am no longer in the market, I'm no longer covered, my governor who is not a friend of people like me right now decides to opt out. What happens?"

MacArthur spent most of the night repeating the refrain that the AHCA would only result in higher premiums for people in the individual marketplace, and then only if they had a gap in coverage for two months. Which would hardly be anyone, except of course for the poor bastards actually in that situation. Is there a CBO score to suggest how many people that might be? Pfft, the House didn't need to wait for such arcana.

After a woman said she relies on Medicaid to help her stay sober and healthy, and worries she'll lose coverage with the very real Medicaid cutbacks in the AHCA -- about a quarter of current funding -- MacArthur helpfully explained his turd of a bill would be WAY better for her than the ACA, since the ACA is dying:

Look I hear the fear. I know it's real [...] And as I said, I think it's tremendous courage for you to come out and share that. I am trying to save a system so it continues to help you. That's all I can tell you. I'm trying to make sure that Medicaid is strong enough to continue to help you.

By cutting its funding and turning it into a block grant that states can allocate as they wish, which might include filthy evil addicts or not.

And then there was this gentleman, Geoff Ginter, who advised MacArthur that the congressman's AHCA amendment has been "the single greatest threat to my family":

For some reason, the crowd also wasn't in the mood for a lecture on how tort reform and selling crappy junk insurance across state lines would make everything just fine, or MacArthur's frequent reminders that Democrats weren't the majority in his district, or his belief that single-payer could never work. Nor were they any kinder to MacArthur on the question of the Trump-Russia scandal; they wanted a special prosecutor, an independent commission, or both, while MacArthur wants the congressional and FBI investigations, such as they may be, to run their course.

But he stayed the full five hours, so he's actually way ahead of a lot of his House Republican pals.

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[NJ.com / NPR / Twitchy / Dan Diamond on Twitter/ Mother Jones]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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