Congressman Steve Pearce hosted a town hall in Las Cruces on Saturday, his third since the election of President Donald Trump. The Las Cruces town hall was the biggest showing of constituents Pearce has seen this year.
Almost 600 people from all over New Mexico’s 2nd congressional district turned out for the town hall at the Farm and Ranch Museum in Las Cruces.
Most of them loud and angry about the Republicans' plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. According to The Urban Institute, 266,000 New Mexicans stand to lose their healthcare coverage.
When Congressman Pearce suggested that some people may just have to live until they can access healthcare through Medicare, a program accessible to people 65 years and older or with severe disabilities:
The crowd chanted back “Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!”
Las Cruces senior citizen Brigitte Henne is on Medicare already, She says it covers about half the cost of the medication she takes for arthritis and a thyroid problem. Henne says she is scared she won’t be able to afford her medication if the Affordable Care act is repealed.
“We can't afford it and when you are our age, it goes up and up and up but you can't go up and up and up. You cant make any money any more and your social security is not getting increased the same time, at the same rate. So you are going to be in trouble." Henne said.
Henne is better off than a lot of seniors. According to the American Association of Retired Persons, seniors not yet eligible for Medicare could see their annual premiums increase by 22 percent. That's because the Republican plan allows insurance companies to charge seniors five times more than young and healthy adults. The Affordable Care Act currently caps insurers at charging any more than three times as much.
Congressman Pearce says that rising health care costs for seniors has been an ongoing problem under the Affordable Care Act and one the Republican Party health plan needs to better address.
“It is the same problem where are having right now. Seniors at all levels are finding their healthcare escalating dramatically right now." Pearce said
"Our plan, the Republican plan does not seem to address that deeply enough. So one of the reasons that we are still having conversations, I don’t think we have seen the final plan, regardless of what (Republican House Speaker) Paul Ryan says. I think we will see some changes in that,” Pearce said.
About one-quarter of the town hall attendees came out to support Congressman Pearce, though were much quieter. Las Cruces resident Mike Tellez voted for Pearce. He wants to see the Affordable Care Act repealed and/or repaired. He said it doesn’t provide him sufficient or affordable coverage.
“Something needs to change in this healthcare, because it is not working.” Tellez said.
“My deductible is way too high" Tellez said “I pray to god that they balance out and come down a little bit. You know I believe that right now this healthcare system is imploding now,” Tellez said.
The town hall went on longer than the scheduled 2 hours. as Pearce heard constituents' concerns on everything from border security, immigration reform, the public lands, a downsizing of the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument, cuts to Planned Parenthood and claims that most of the town hall attendees were paid protestors.
‘Where's my check, Where's my check, Where's my check” - the crowd chanted back.
Mike Tellez says if Democrats were as good at voting in elections as they are at voicing their frustrations, there would be a less animosity and political division nationally.
“What I’d like to see, people quit the hate and you know get out and get the person they want elected in, rather than fight so much over who is already in.” Tellez said “They are already in, give them a chance. If they don’t like what they do, hey vote them out,” Tellez said.
New Mexico and Dona Ana County overwhelmingly for Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton
in the 2016 Presidential election.