In direct response to the rapid, sweeping changes introduced by President Donald Trump’s administration, about 100 local citizens attended a meeting with U.S. Congressman Evan Jenkins’ field representative Jordan Maynor on Monday at city hall in Lewisburg.
The group took the opportunity to speak to Maynor “to have our voices heard.”
According to Gloria Martin, one of the organizers generating the citizen response, many at the meeting have never voiced their views to their district representative, yet the vocal community cross-section had a lot to say, especially about the move to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare.”
“We are not going to rip away Medicaid from West Virginia citizens,” Maynor said, upon hearing requests for assurances that Jenkins will oppose the repeal, or, at the very least, maintain the pre-existing conditions clause. But, “the ACA is unsustainable in it’s present form,” Maynor said, echoing the viewpoint on Jenkins’ website that states, “It’s clear that Obamacare is deeply broken.” The congressman has voted multiple times to repeal and replace the ACA.
Maynor said Jenkins wants to replace Obamacare with a health care plan that is patient centered, keeps the government out of the doctor-patient relationship, and increases competition by allowing families to shop across state lines for the insurance plan that works for them.
By dropping those artificial barriers, Maynor maintained, insurance companies would have to compete and costs would come down. He assured the gathering that pre-existing conditions and coverage for young adults under 26 still on their parents’ plans would remain protected under the replacement plan.
The repeal of ACA is a real concern for West Virginians. A report by West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization, shows West Virginia will be one of the most heavily impacted states by an ACA repeal.
To those citizens gathered at Monday’s meeting, the reason for ACA’s unsustainability is because Republicans in Congress have made other issues a budget priority, rendering ACA without adequate federal funding; likewise Planned Parenthood.
“All these things could be met and sustained with the budget we have,” said Carly Mareneck, if the military budget was reckoned with responsibly. “Why get rid of ACA only to go back to square one?”
The replacement plan, Patient Freedom Act of 2017, proposed by four U.S. Senators, including Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., has promised to keep intact the pre-existing conditions and lifetime limits protections; however, the plan specifics do not mention preventive care measures.
Maynor said Obamacare was a creation of the Democrats. “Not a single Republican voted for it. They had nothing to do with it,” he said, generating a round of concerted dispute. “Not true,” came the clamoring response. The group was unanimous in urging Jenkins oppose the repeal of ACA and to hold an open forum on health care.
Another topic that generated a rain of questions and demands from the audience was as a result of the January 27 presidential executive order calling for a four-month halt of refugees from around the world and a three-month halt of immigrants from seven middle eastern and African countries. One young audience member said he was a first generation American to Romanian parents. He voiced a concern that should he leave the U.S. to go to his grandfather’s funeral, would he be allowed to come back in? Another person worried that since her Iranian husband had only recently acquired a green card, she asked, “Would he be deported?”
The halt of immigrants was not a “Muslim ban,” Maynor said, nor will it be a permanent halt. Both opinions were widely decried by the audience. He explained that the reason those particular countries were selected was because they have “no stable central governments.”
“The instability they are living with is the very reason these people are coming here,” said one audience member in evident exasperation. “The question is, how do we back up from this mistake?”
“We can’t allow everyone in who wants to come into our country,” Maynor said. “The president has broad authority as to who he can prevent from entering the U.S.” Maynor did acknowledge that there should have been more clarity and less ambiguity in the language of the president’s ban of immigrants to this country.
The audience appealed to Maynor to convey that Jenkins stand up and address his constituents’ concerns, stating, “Congress needs to act as a check on executive powers.”
During the two hour gathering, other topics were directed at Maynor to report back to Jenkins, including the border wall with Mexico, the environment, jobs, Keystone XL Pipeline and the DAPL pipeline and the prevalence of drug addiction in West Virginia. Maynor vowed to make his visits to the area better publicized so this and other discussions can be more effectively communicated to Jenkins.
Maynor comes to Lewisburg once a month. Normally, Mayor John Manchester said, these monthly meetings have few attendees, and sometimes, no one comes at all. As meetings go, this one was a record for Maynor, who said this was the largest group to come to any of his rounds of meetings across the district. Often there are a number of attendees at senior centers, he said, but nothing like this.
What changed? An election.