Rep. Marshall says Senate health bill may be "as good as we can get"
As U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran spoke at a crowded town hall in Palco focused on health care, U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall was able to talk directly to all 10 residents seated in a courtroom here.
The freshman representative for the sprawling 1st Congressional District struck an optimistic tone Thursday at a town hall in the Meade County Courthouse on the plains of southwestern Kansas.
“Our country is better today than it was three months ago, six months ago,” said Marshall, a Republican, at the end of the roughly 45-minute event.
Lawmakers are home for the Fourth of July recess. Elsewhere in the district, Moran faced a large, restless crowd eager to talk about a bill in the U.S. Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Marshall also planned stops in Ashland, Syracuse, Lakin, Leoti, Dighton and Russell. Rep. Ron Estes didn’t schedule any town hall events during the break but planned to deliver a legislative update at the Pachyderm Club in Wichita on Friday.
Marshall said the U.S. House of Representatives had done its part to repeal Dodd-Frank financial regulations and the Affordable Care Act, which he called “two crippling parts of our economy.” He said a Senate bill to repeal the ACA, or Obamacare, “may be as good of a bill as we can get there.”
“We need the Senate to do their job,” he said. “To me, the Senate is where the struggle typically is.”
“I wish there was more transparency,” he added of the process there.
Marshall said residents of many counties did not have enough health care options under the exchange set up by the ACA.
“I wish it had worked but it didn’t,” Marshall said to a resident who said they liked the Affordable Care Act because a relative got coverage under it.
‘It’s going to be a mess’
Jackie Borth of Montezuma asked Marshall if he would vote against other bills that cut Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare, pointing to a campaign promise of President Donald Trump.
“I never heard him (Trump) say he wouldn’t touch Medicaid,” Marshall responded to some protests from Borth. “I heard him say he wouldn’t touch Medicare and Social Security.”
Jeff Borth, an independent voter from Montezuma, said he was concerned about how Medicaid cuts in the Senate Republican health care bill would affect nursing homes and hospitals in towns like Montezuma and Meade.
“That’s going to affect small, rural communities,” he said. “If that goes away, which most likely it would, that means half the people that work there are going to be out of a job.”
Marshall, a physician, said he thought it would have “very minimal impact” because many doctors don’t accept Medicaid.
“It’s such a hassle for so little reimbursement,” Marshall said. “Medicaid is so broken I would love to be able to start over with it.”
Jeff Borth said after the meeting that he didn’t think Marshall “gave a clear answer.”
“I think we’ll end up right back where we were when people got denied health coverage (and) premiums go through the roof,” he said. “It’s going to be a mess.”
Marshall drew some contrasts between himself and the president on trade, saying he thought the U.S. should have stayed in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and that the NAFTA agreement with Canada and Mexico should be modernized, not abandoned.
Marshall said there was no doubt that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. But he didn’t think the Russians “caused the election to go a different way.”
“I don’t think that there was any collusion involving the president. I do think it’s basically a witch hunt,” Marshall told The Eagle after the event. “I hope they come to a quick conclusion and the correct conclusion as well. I think that Trump will be totally vindicated.”
U.S. ‘would be better off’
Roger Stotts, a wheat farmer from Greensburg, said after the event that he wanted to see more streamlined immigration rules for workers.
“I think we’re very fortunate to have him,” Stotts said of Marshall.
Drinking coffee in the Chuckwagon Restaurant on Thursday morning, Meade City Council member Roger Musgrove said he thought Marshall was doing a good job for the district.
He also said he likes how Trump communicates directly with his supporters through Twitter and other social media.
“If the media would leave him alone, let him do his job and work on his agenda, the United States would be better off,” Musgrove said. “I’m just proud that he can take the heat.”
Musgrove said the most important issues for him were immigration and jobs. And he thought the president had done a good job delegating to generals and other military leaders like Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Don Classen said outside a gas station that he wanted to see less bickering in Congress and the repeal of Obamacare.
“But I want it replaced with something a lot better,” Classen said.
John Thomas, a Meade County resident originally from Australia, said inside the Chuckwagon that he leaned more Democratic and that the president was a dangerous and naive leader.
“He has no comprehension of world affairs,” Thomas said, adding that Trump shouldn’t do things that anger allies.
Thomas said he didn’t agree with Marshall ideologically, but that he supported him on agricultural issues.
“When (former Rep. Tim Huelskamp) lost a seat on the Agriculture Committee, western Kansas lost a voice,” Thomas said. “I think (Marshall) is good back there.”
Bob Holbrook and his wife, Trina, were passing through Meade on Thursday morning, driving an 18-wheeler back to their home in southern Ohio.
He called the Affordable Care Act “a failure by design” with socialized medicine as its ultimate goal. He said he was disgusted that Republicans haven’t been able to repeal the health care law nearly six months into the new administration.
“They didn’t run on ‘alter Obamacare,’ ” Holbrook said. “They ran on repealing Obamacare.”
“The Republicans are making excuses, talking Russian interference when there was none,” he added. “I’d just like to see them do what they said they’d do.”