When Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) asked if anyone had questions about Obamacare during his town hall on Wednesday night, he didn’t seem prepared for the response.
The first person to take him up on his request was 25-year old Kati McFarland, who began her comments by asking everyone in the room to stand up if they had been affected by Obamacare. Most of the packed auditorium stood and began chanting “ACA.”
In his response to McFarland’s question, Cotton tried to spin this moment.
“You asked everyone to stand up if they had been impacted by Obamacare. A lot of you did, but not all of you did,” Cotton said. “Which was a mistake. Everyone in this room has been hurt, or helped, by Obamacare.”
“Obamacare saved my life, Senator,” McFarland shot back.
This is a young woman challenging Cotton on ACA replacement plan. 2000 here inside. pic.twitter.com/bBEqIVuzoF
— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) February 22, 2017
During their lengthy exchange, Cotton never gave McFarland an answer to her question: In the process of repealing Obamacare, what, specifically, would he do to prevent coverage gaps that could kill people like her?
“My family has been in the Ozarks since the 1800s. We are historically a Republican family, we are a farming family, we’re an NRA family, we’re an army family,” McFarland began. “Now, aside from inheriting their patriotism and their work ethic, I unfortunately inherited an incurable connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.”
McFarland gave a quick rundown of the havoc the disease wreaks on her body before telling Cotton the stakes.
“Without the coverage for pre-existing conditions, I will die. That is not hyperbole. I will die. Without the protections against lifetime coverage caps, I will die. Without the Obamacare (or ACA) exchange health care plan that I have elected to continue after my Cobra that is going to kick in after I turn 26 this coming Sunday, I will die,” she said. “Will you have a replacement plan in place to prevent coverage gaps the second the repeal goes through?”
When Cotton tried to move onto other questions before answering her, the crowd shouted him down with chants of “do your job.” When he tried to obfuscate, the crowd interrupted him with chants of “yes or no.”
“Without the coverage for pre-existing conditions, I will die. That is not hyperbole. I will die.”
“Katy, what I’m committed to, is making sure that people with pre-existing conditions like yours, or young healthy people, all have access to affordable, quality care,” Cotton said. “I am committed to making sure we have an effective, smooth transition period.”
McFarland pressed him for about five minutes about specifically how he planned to ensure that. But Cotton continued to dodge her attempts to pin him down.
You can watch the full exchange here, starting around 21:00:
In his attempts to dodge McFarland’s question, Cotton attempted to lecture her on health care terminology, citing the fact that insurance companies are no longer allowed to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. That prohibition is a key tenet of Obamacare.
Eventually, Cotton gave a vague answer suggesting that he supports some of the protections McFarland cited, and that he would “make that clear in the legislative process,” before saying he needed to move on.
“Before they ask theirs, I’d appreciate if you’d actually answer mine,” McFarland said.“But I can see you won’t.” The crowd erupted in cheers.
The next question, however, was just as emotional — and Cotton took just as much of a beating for his stance on health care.
“My husband has dementia, Alzheimer’s, plus multiple other things. And you ought to stand there with him with at home — you expect us to be calm, cool, and collected,” the woman, who had said that she and her husband relied on Medicare, began. “Well, what kind of insurance do you have?”
“I’ve got a husband dying. And let me tell you something. If you can get us better coverage than this, go for it.”
Though Cotton said he would be happy to meet with her and listen more to her story, he never gave her or McFarland more details on the shape of the purported GOP Obamacare replacement legislation.