ST. PAUL, Minn – Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum (R-MN) held her fourth town hall this week during her congressional break.
McCollum, whose district encompasses St. Paul and its surrounding suburbs, held a town hall Friday morning specifically to discuss the “Affordable Care Act, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.”
More than 300 hundred members of the community, mostly senior citizens filled the seats and standing room of the large community center room.
Beginning with a PowerPoint presentation, McCollum updated her constituents on her work in Washington D.C. before turning the mic over to a panel of experts on the town hall topics.
McCollum admitted the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was not perfect and needed to be amended. However, she did credit the ACA with saving dollars and lives by extending the solvency of Medicare until 2028. McCollum also told constituents Social Security would remain solvent until 2034.
Discussing potential alternatives to the ACA presented by Republicans, McCollum outlined the damage repealing Obamacare could cause to Minnesota. According to statistics presented by McCollum, 380,000 people would lose their health insurance, 53,000 would lose their jobs, and 389,401 Medicare beneficiaries would lose access to free preventative services.
As a proponent of the public option in health care, McCollum expressed her dissatisfaction with the voucher system – which she claims would force individuals to pay more and block grants – which she states would directly result in cuts to services for low-income Americans.
President Trump and the Republican Party support a Medicaid block grant program, creating the potential for rationed health care service, according to McCollum.
With regards to Social Security, McCollum states the current majority – held by Republicans, seek to privatize social security. McCollum warns privatization would lead to severe cuts in Social Security Benefits, a multi-trillion dollar increase in the current federal debt – which stands at $20 trillion, and raises the risk for future retirement planning.
Dr. Clarence Hightower, the Executive Director of Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington Counties and one of McCollum’s panelist states the senior population is in need of help as 60% of seniors pay more than 30% of their income for housing.
Jonathan Palmer, Executive Director of the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center says the need for help amongst senior citizens is growing and is “thankful to have someone like Rep. McCollum championing on our behalf.” “In 2015, we distributed more than 300,000 pounds of food. In 2016, more than 500,000. We are looking at what can become a crisis” Palmer explains.
Erin Parrish, the Associate State Director of Advocacy and Outreach with AARP Minnesota acknowledged the group was concerned with the conversation on Capitol Hill. Parrish said AARP would continue to pay close attention to proposals on the table regarding Medicare and Social Security. “We will be against harmful cuts to either program…We believe it cuts government spending by putting the burden on beneficiaries.” Parrish specifically points to privatizing Social Security stating it keeps nearly 15,000 out of poverty and pointing out 30% of Minnesotans 65 and older rely on Social Security as their only source of income.
One man told McCollum, “Republicans did not pay me to be here.” After explaining how the ACA helped his wife who was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, he asked her to earn his vote stating “my party has abandoned me.” McCollum said the plans she sees in Washington seek to scrap the ACA altogether, she has no problem with it if Republicans want it, but demands to see a replacement beforehand.
The town hall was filled with concerned citizens who genuinely sought answers. No protesters were present at McCollum’s town hall, unlike her Republican counterparts. In recent weeks, Republican lawmakers across the nation have faced thousands of protesters who have tried to disrupt and attack congressmen and women who support policies backed by the Trump administration.
McCollum told one town hall attendee, “I’m going to ask my colleagues how their town hall went.”