Kevin Yoder, the 3rd District Republican congressman since 2011, has been one of the most vocal critics of Obamacare. If Congress does repeal and replace it as is expected, will Yoder hold a series of in-person town hall meetings to explain the new plan?
He certainly should, even though many town halls across the country have turned out to be ambushes by Democrats and other proponents of the Affordable Care Act.
Until recently, Yoder held regular, in-person town halls throughout his district, which includes Johnson and Wyandotte counties. But lately he has opted instead for telephone town halls. Yoder said he can reach more people that way, which is undoubtedly true. But there is no substitute for talking to folks in the flesh and explaining in simple terms how their health care coverage will change.
Donald Trump trounced Hillary Clinton by more than 20 points in Kansas, but Yoder’s home base is not so Trump-loving. Trump carried Johnson County by only about two points. In Democratic Wyandotte County, he lost by nearly 30 points.
So Yoder cannot hide behind the president as he makes his case. He will need to sell the new plan on his own. That may be a tough sell.
As with any change in health care, there will be winners and losers. Unfortunately for Yoder, the losers are more likely to show up for his town halls. It comes with the territory.
Although it is too soon to know the fate of the bill winding its way through Congress, independent, nonpartisan experts are already projecting millions of Americans will lose their health care coverage if the legislation known as the American Health Care Act becomes law.
The politically expedient move for Yoder would be to postpone any town hall indefinitely, especially if rumors are true that Yoder intends to seek the job of Kansas governor next year. But whether he does vie for the post or instead chooses to seek re-election to Congress, Yoder should do the right thing — not the expedient thing — and appear before his constituents, even if it turns ugly.
Now would not be too soon for Yoder to publicly declare that if a new health care plan is passed and signed by Trump, he will immediately set up a series of in-person town halls to answer questions.
Yoder is unusually affable and has a commanding presence. That should go a long way toward avoiding the spectacles that have unfolded when members of Congress, facing angry crowds, have fled through the back door. Then, the jolted politicians resort to insulting the vocal audience, calling them “anarchists” and “organized protesters from outside the district.”
Knowing Yoder, he would not stoop to name-calling just because some of his constituents were boisterous. He would treat them with respect, which hopefully would calm down the crowd.
I won’t try to kid anybody. I think Obamacare was a pretty decent program that needed modification, not repeal and replace. Some viewed it as a new entitlement that was too expensive to implement, and rates were rising too fast for individuals. But it covered 20 million more Americans. I believe decent health care is a right, and it is unconscionable for an emergency room to be the only place to turn for routine health care for anyone.
But I will try hard to keep an open mind if a new plan is unveiled. I just want to know from my congressman, who hated Obamacare, what the new realities are going to be. And not by tele-town hall.