Town hall erupts in jeers after GOP official lies about ACA ‘death panels’

Constituents weren’t having it.

CREDIT: CNN screengrab
CREDIT: CNN screengrab

Politifact’s 2009 “Lie of the Year” was brought back from the dead during a Saturday town hall hosted by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) — and the mostly pro-ACA crowd wasn’t having any of it.

Bill Akins — chair of Pasco County, Florida’s Republican Party — told the roughly 250 people in attendance that his problem with the Affordable Care Act is that “there is a provision in there that anyone over the age of 74 has to go before what is effectively a death panel.”

As soon as the words “death panel” left Akins’ mouth, the crowd erupted in boos, jeers, and chants of “liar, liar.”

“It’s in there folks. You’re wrong!” Akins replied, falsely, as Bilirakis tried to restore order. Akins then calls the angry crowd “children.”

As CNN’s Eric Bradner reported from the event, Bilirakis heard from a man who said his daughter has a genetic disease is still alive because of the ACA and a doctor who reported seeing fewer self-paying patients since the ACA became law.


But Bilirakis— who describes himself as a “staunch opponent of Obamacare” on his website — persisted in making his case that people should have the “choice” to be uninsured.

“You gotta have choice, ladies and gentleman,” he said. “People should have the opportunity to pay for their own plan based on their own needs.”

Bilirakis held a town hall on the Affordable Care Act last weekend, too. At that event, like the one on Saturday, he was confronted by a crowd mostly opposed to repealing the ACA.


As ThinkProgress wrote on the occasion of Bilirakis’ previous town hall, his willingness to meet with his constituents “sets him apart from other Republican members of Congress, several of whom have recently fled constituent town halls in order to avoid dealing with crowds of pro-Obamacare demonstrators.”

Another opponent of the ACA, Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), recently said he doesn’t want to hold town halls because “since Obamacare and these issues have come up, the women are in my grill no matter where I go.”

Republican members of Congress haven’t yet decided how to deal with the ACA, if at all, but all of the options they’ve considered for replacements would create more problems than they’d solve.

Studies indicate repealing the ACA could cost 32 million people their health insurance, reduce U.S. job growth by almost 1.2 million in 2019, and result in between 27,000 and 36,000 preventable deaths each year.