Vista Town Hall On Health Care Proceeds Without Congressman Issa
With standing room only, hundreds of people, including District 49 constituents, local groups and others, gathered Tuesday night at the Jim Porter Recreation Center in Vista for an "Emergency Town Hall On Health Care." Their guest, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, did not attend, as expected.
Earlier this month, a coalition of local and statewide groups, including faith leaders, community health advocates and labor groups organized the event to discuss the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Issa's plans to repeal it. They called on Issa to attend. The groups crowdsourced money to pay for a full-page advertisement in the San Diego Union-Tribune inviting the congressman.
Reactions to Tuesday's town hall and Issa's decision to skip it were shared on Twitter using the hashtag #WhereisDarrell.
Earlier on Tuesday, Issa released a draft of his plan to repeal ACA. In a statement, he said he encouraged "feedback so that together we can advance a solution that protects patients, and truly puts your needs first.”
Shortly after he released that statement, supporters and critics held dueling rallies outside his North County office.
On one side of the street were dozens of Issa’s most dedicated supporters, dressed in red, white and blue, and waving American flags. They held Trump banners and chanted “repeal Obamacare.”
“We’re sick of Obamacare,” said Patti Siegmann, wearing a navy blue hat and sweatshirt with President Trump’s name in big red letters. “It’s not working, it’s broken, it’s expensive and our premiums are going up like crazy.”
On the other side of the street were Issa and Trump critics — the same group that has protested in front of the Congressman’s office every Tuesday for the past month, calling on Issa to preserve the ACA.
“ACA has got to stay,” chanted the group, holding signs that read: "Save our democracy," "No wall" and "Don't take my Medicare and Medicaid."
“I fear that we’re going to go back to the time the average person who has the average income of say $25,000 or $30,000 a year, will only get their health care in an emergency department,” said Nancy Wilson, a former nurse.
As the two groups were shouting at each other, Issa emerged from his office and greeted the crowd of approximately 200 people, who ran over to gather around him. The dissenting group stood shoulder to shoulder, sometimes pushing and arguing.
“My hope is this morning we’ll find a way to bridge these two groups,” Issa began, after breaking up a quarrel. "I'm going to simply stop answering if people are going to yell. Now, who has a question?”
Most people asked about health care.
"I want to know, under the plan you're proposing, how many more millions of Americans will be insured?" asked a woman.
“I’m offering an alternative that keeps the exchange system alive and revitalizes it in a way that it doesn’t have today,” said Issa, who held up a draft of his newly released proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare.
He explained the bill called “The Access to Insurance for All Americans Act” aims to give Americans access to the health benefit plan used by federal employees. It would drive down prices on individual insurance plans by letting Americans join a risk pool that already includes nine million federal employees and their families, as well as retirees.
“The Affordable Care Act has a problem, and the problem is that only sick people are signing up for the exchanges,” Issa told the crowd. “That’s why the rates are going up so high. I’m offering a piece of legislation to try to bring more healthy people into the exchanges.”
Issa spent more than an hour answering questions that covered a wide range of topics stemming around President Trump’s orders and plans, including immigration.
“You know, I don’t want ICE running through neighborhoods looking for illegals,” Issa said. “I don’t want our police and Sheriffs running through and looking for illegals at every job site. However ... when somebody has committed a crime and they’re incarcerated in a jail or prison, I think finding out if they should be released into your neighborhood or released into a neighborhood in Guatemala — the fact is they should go to wherever their citizenship is and their residency is when they’re done paying their price,” Issa said, as his supporters applauded and erupted in cheering.
One woman asked about Trump’s involvement into Russia.
“You held so many hearings on Benghazi. When are you going to investigate Trump and Russia and Trump’s taxes?” yelled a woman into a microphone.
“In the case of Russia, it is very clear that I am a staunch anti-Russian,” Issa answered. “I tried to keep them out of the WTO (World Trade Organization), and I have been staunchly a supporter of the fact they’re a smaller empire but they’re still evil.”
“I am pushing and will continue to push to make sure the Trump Administration is evaluated as to all their financial activities,” Issa added. “And also all the activities that go on by all the cabinet officers — and there’s certainly an interesting group of cabinet people.”
The questions from the crowd continued.
“When will you be defunding Planned Parenthood,” asked a man standing a few feet in front of the congressman.
“I suspect that as long as we do not directly fund abortion, Planned Parenthood will continue to receive the money, substantial money, I’m not going to speak for more or less, but it’s going to receive similar money ...”
Another man asked Issa, "We're a country divided. Everyone says that. How can we talk to each other? And what can you do in Congress to fix that?"
Issa answered, “Today, as you all have been very civil, very, very civil, with a little pushing, but very civil, we go a little bit in the right direction toward having the civil discourse.”