Blum Called Out By Constituents Over AHCA Vote

By Sam Bruxvoort Colligan

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Congressman Rod Blum answers questions at a town hall meeting. 

What happens when a representative votes ‘yea’ on the American Health Care Act? Angry constituents. From social media, to letters to the editor, to protesting at town halls, constituents are expressing their anger toward Congressman Rod Blum, Iowa 1st district representative, for voting for the AHCA.

Earlier this month, the House passed the AHCA, a bill that is meant to repeal and replace Obamacare. Many of Blum’s constituents feel alienated by his vote, and they don’t feel that he is representing their values well. Betsy Baertlein, an attendee of Blum’s recent town hall in Cedar Rapids at Kirkwood Community College, said “There was a lot of booing, jeering, and holding up of red signs to show disagreement with Representative Blum’s statements.”

To make matters worse, Blum’s statements regarding the effects of AHCA have been disputed by experts on the issue. In a recent press release, Rep. Blum acknowledged that “the AHCA rolls back Obamacare’s massive Medicaid expansion… but NOBODY currently on Medicaid will be kicked off.”

Amelia Kegan (Domestic Policy Legislative Director for Friends Committee on National Legislation) said that this statement “is hard to make sense of.” The Congressional Budget Office corroborates this. When scoring the AHCA, the CBO found that Medicaid would be cut by almost $850 billion over ten years. “You cannot cut Medicaid by that dramatic amount and still provide the same coverage to the same number of people,” says Kegan. “People will be cut off the program, as the CBO found in its score.”

In the same press release, Blum said “The AHCA explicitly states that NOTHING in this bill allows insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.”

This isn’t quite true. The MacArthur Amendment, a last-minute addition to the bill introduced by a member of Blum’s own Freedom Caucus, intended to win over the more conservative House members, “essentially strips away protections for people with preexisting conditions,” says Kegan. “This provision allows states to waive the ACA’s requirements of the essential health benefits insurance plans must cover as well as the prohibitions against discriminating against and charging more for people with pre-existing conditions, against lifetime caps and annual limits.”

Blum and his fellow members of the Freedom Caucus were most concerned with reducing the cost of healthcare from the federal budget as well as reducing insurance premiums overall. The CBO predicts that the AHCA will save a total of $337 billion by 2026. “I’ll be the first to admit that the AHCA is not perfect,” Blum said. “…But this is government – often we need to compromise to fix a big problem like Obamacare’s collapse in Iowa. The AHCA is a step in the right direction.”

It’s unclear how all this affects Iowa yet, but Iowans are still concerned. Town hall attendee Betsy Baertlein teaches immigrants and refugees at Kirkwood Community College. “Many of my students rely on Medicaid to access the healthcare system. I worry about what will happen to them and their families if Medicaid becomes more limited or difficult to access. I do not support AHCA, but I do agree that something needs to be done to make healthcare affordable for all in this country.”

 

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