There was more than a bit of political theater Monday at the Dole Institute of Politics during a town hall meeting featuring Republican U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins and constituents.
Give Jenkins credit for hosting the town hall. She knew, based on similar events by Republicans throughout the country, she was likely to face an angry, organized group focused on trying to protect the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare.
Sure enough, a crowd of about 400 people turned out for the event, and often drowned Jenkins out by shouting “We don’t believe you,” and “Do your job.”
The irony, of course, is that Jenkins is doing her job, voting as she always has and as she always said she would. Elected to Congress in 2008, Jenkins voted against Obamacare when it was approved in 2009 and has since voted 19 times to either repeal or diminish the health care law.
Northeast Kansas voters have rewarded Jenkins for her stance by voting overwhelmingly to re-elect her four times, including a few months ago when Jenkins got 61 percent of the vote to defeat Democrat Britani Potter.
During that same election, President Donald Trump, who repeatedly called Obamacare a disaster and made repealing it one of his signature priorities during his campaign, won 103 out of 105 Kansas counties and netted 56 percent of the state’s vote.
So no matter how much noise 400 people make at a town hall in Lawrence, polls speak louder. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Jenkins supports Republicans’ current plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
That said, voters should expect Jenkins to be honest about the plan, something she didn’t exactly do on Monday. The crowd’s chants of “we don’t believe you” were on the mark.
Americans who have benefited from being covered by Obamacare are concerned they will lose coverage if it is repealed. Jenkins and her fellow Republicans have dodged questions about how many will lose coverage under the proposed replacement plan.
“The intent is to provide transition rules so that no one that has health care is thrown off of their health care, and folks that don’t have coverage are able to get coverage,” Jenkins said Monday.
But the Congressional Budget Office, the nonprofit agency which reviews proposed policies for financial and other impacts, estimates that some 24 million Americans are in danger of losing their insurance if the plan is approved. That’s because the Republican plan eliminates the mandate that Americans get health insurance or face tax penalties. Instead, it offers modest tax breaks to incentivize acquiring insurance.
As the CBO pointed out, millions of Americans will choose to go without health insurance for a myriad of reasons, including because they simply can’t afford it, if the Republican plan is approved.
It would be good if supporters of the repeal-and-replace plan, including Jenkins, would acknowledge that’s the case.
Likewise, if the crowds at town hall meetings like Monday’s really want to affect change, their energy would be better spent identifying, supporting and voting for like-minded candidates than yelling at someone like Jenkins, whose record at the ballot box indicates considerable support for her stance on Obamacare.