House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was confronted at a town hall on Thursday night by a man who said Obamacare saved his life after he was diagnosed with cancer — and asked Ryan why the GOP is currently trying to dismantle the law.
At Thursday’s event, which was sponsored by CNN and moderated by Jake Tapper, Jeff Jeans introduced himself as a lifelong Republican who once worked on the Reagan and Bush campaigns. “Just like you, I hated the Affordable Care Act,” he told Ryan.
But then, at 49 years old, Jeans was diagnosed with a curable type of cancer. His doctors gave him just six weeks to live if he didn’t pursue treatment.
“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I’m standing here today alive,” he said. “I rely on the Affordable Care Act to be able to purchase my own insurance. Why would you repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement?”
The speaker demurred, telling Jeans that Obamacare has failed and Republicans want to replace it “with something better.” He also said the GOP plans to maintain coverage for people like him through “high-risk pools” — essentially, a separate health plan that’s only for people with high health care costs. The problem with high-risk pools is that Republicans don’t seem willing to spend enough money on them to ensure they’ll truly cover the millions of people with pre-existing health conditions.
At one point, Jeans interrupted, saying, “I want to thank President Obama from the bottom of my heart, because I would be dead if it weren’t for him.”
Early Thursday morning, Senate Republicans took the first step toward repealing Obamacare, narrowly approving a budget resolution that instructs several congressional committees to write legislation dismantling major provisions of the health law. The House is expected to take up the same budget measure as early as Friday.
Republicans have been rushing to undo President Obama’s signature health legislation even though they still haven’t said what should come next. For the past six years, the GOP has failed to coalesce around a viable Obamacare replacement plan. Conservative lawmakers typically propose a combination of the same old Republican ideas about health care — none of which would preserve access to insurance at the same levels as Obamacare, which has extended coverage to 20 million Americans.
Despite those logistical challenges, GOP leaders insist that a replacement bill will be introduced “simultaneously” with Obamacare repeal.
“We want to do this at the same time, and in some cases in the same bill,” Ryan told Jeans at the town hall. “So we want to advance repealing this law with its replacement at the same time.”
Repealing Obamacare before finalizing a replacement would be incredibly unpopular among the American public. According to recent polling, 75 percent of Americans want the GOP to either leave Obamacare alone or roll it back only after readying a replacement law.