Congresswoman Kendra Horn, CD-5, drew yet another crowd to one of her many town halls Saturday but absent any hostility, a current rarity in the sharply divided political landscape.
Pulling together public-health focused professionals on a panel at the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, Horn pushed for valuing healthcare access to everyone while pushing back on any kind of Medicare for all ideas.
The panel discussed what kinds of access to health care are available and how to deal with the COVID-19 developing crisis.
Horn discussed what could be available if some bills that have passed out of the House would be taken up by the Republican majority Senate which is sitting on hundreds of bills from the Democratic majority House.
In a turn from previous town halls where she drew question cards out of a bucket, she took a large number of questions from the floor and most of them were pragmatic questions about how to deliver healthcare to people who need it.
The Health Department’s epidemiologist, Eddie Withers, gave an assessment of the current situation of COVID-19 (or novel coronavirus) and gave advice on how anyone could lessen their chances of catching that disease or any number of other contagious diseases.
Withers said that so far, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma County. Only a Tulsa resident has been tested positive. Five statewide have had a negative test for the disease.
Attendees heard an account from Jennifer Coffman whose son would not have received the healthcare he needed in a dire set of medical circumstances if it was not for the Affordable Care Act, what opponents have dubbed “Obamacare.”
He fell and when being treated for a head injury from the fall, doctors found that he had a brain tumor and later that he had brain cancer.
Coffman said that the treatment for the fall itself was near $140,000, the surgery was “one-quarter of a million dollars” and since then doctor’s bills have been around $2 million.
The ACA did not screen him out, drop coverage or cap payouts as so many private health plans do.
“My son appeared healthy until the day he fell,” Coffman said emphasizing how we don’t know what types of medical situations we are in even though we seem okay at the time.
“Today, he has a job and is paying taxes,” said Coffman. “And we are so grateful for the ACA.”
They heard from Dr. Patrick McGough, director of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department who explained the concepts of public health they have which is to deliver varying types of healthcare to as many people in the county as they can.
“When everyone gets healthcare everyone wins,” said McGough. “We never turn away people who cannot afford to pay.”
And, they heard from Dr. Yuliana Reyes, a physician with the Latino Community Development Agency (LDCA) in Oklahoma City who leads efforts to educate people of all incomes about their health and how to receive the best healthcare.
Horn closed by touting the importance of the ACA and warning that there are forces in Washington who are angling to dismantle a system that provides health insurance to millions.
She also pushed back on Governor Kevin Stitt’s attempts to push through a Trump administration plan that would use block grants to expand Medicare instead of the direct funding per person enrolled that is currently offered in the ACA.
Under the ACA, states that expand Medicaid to those above the current income cutoff would receive 9 to 1 funding from the federal government. But, Oklahoma is one of the states that has refused to accept the opportunity mostly for the political reason that it was associated with the previous President Barak Obama.
Natalie Bayne, camp and community program director with Diabetes Solutions of Oklahoma, joined the panel to give a perspective of the heavy costs of diabetes care. She has had Type I diabetes since childhood and now works with children who have diabetes.
“I can’t afford $1,000 for an insulin pump and few other people can,” she said. “And that’s just one of the many expensive aspects of having either Type I or Type II diabetes.
She said that far too many families have to make the agonizing choice of whether to buy food or insulin if they are not on a good healthcare plan. That’s where the ACA has made a difference for so many.
The town hall was another instance of Horn’s unique mixing of pragmatic governance and careful capturing of a particular political middle ground as she moves forward in an election year.
She seems to be ever mindful that her district is a purple one with plenty of Republican voters and multiple Republican challengers lining up for the opportunity to take her on in the November general election.
But even though Horn has plenty of political chops, she has done a consistently solid job of showing sincerity and respect for all comers to her many town halls providing a connection with even those who disagree.
That determination to show respect to all of her constituents and listen to their concerns seems to have reassured people in her district who have opposed her since her first town hall.
Except for Saturday, the demonstrating constituents have shown up to greet those arriving with signs and talking to anyone who would listen about why they don’t like Horn’s policies.
Saturday was the first town hall that we have reported where sign-carrying opponents and those wearing MAGA hats have not shown up and participated.
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