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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Sen. Ron Johnson peppered with questions about health insurance

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) shakes hands with a supporter Sunday at a town hall meeting at the Root River Center in Franklin. The man did not want to be named.

It was billed as an open meeting in Franklin with U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and the Wisconsin Grandsons of Liberty, a tea party group that has long supported the GOP senator.

But what Johnson got, instead, was a series of passionate and often pointed questions from outspoken critics of the health care bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and backed by President Donald Trump.

The hourlong meeting at the Root River Center was dominated by individuals such as Gail Campbell, a 69-year-old cancer patient from St. Francis.

Campbell told Johnson that her doctor informed her that her cancer treatment would be restricted and that she could lose coverage for her asthma medicine and physical therapy under the American Health Care Act passed by the House.

"I don't know why your doctor would tell you that you're going to lose that," Johnson responded. "I don't know what basis he's got. It's way to soon to say that."

Campbell said her doctor was relying on news coverage from the New York Times.

"Oh, OK, that explains it all then," Johnson said sarcastically, prompting widespread booing.

Tim Dake, president of the Wisconsin Grandsons of Liberty, said 102 people registered for the event and he estimated 60 showed up Sunday. Dake said more than half the crowd appeared to be opponents of Johnson, something he welcomed.

"It's dull if he's just preaching to the choir," Dake said.

While the meeting was going on, dozens of supporters of Obamacare marched outside the Franklin bowling alley and bar. At least three groups helped organize the protest: Citizen Action of Wisconsin, the League of Progressive Seniors and For Wisconsin's Future.

"Senator Johnson, this is the scandal, Trumpcare is the real death panel," the group chanted.
Former Milwaukee Health Commissioner Seth Foldy, one of those leading the march, said Johnson had expressed some enthusiasm for cutting Medicaid and was waffling on whether lawmakers should protect people with pre-existing conditions.

About 35 protesters carry signs and chant outside a town hall meeting with Sen. Ron Johnson on Sunday at the Root River Center in Franklin.


"Both of those are extremely dangerous for the health of Americans," said Foldy, a doctor and professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Inside the forum, which was open only to those who pre-registered, Johnson provided few specifics on what he favors when repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in 2010.

Johnson said he wanted to stabilize the health care market in 2018 and curb the explosion in health care costs.

"I'm trying to slow the process down," Johnson said regarding Senate action on the health care bill passed by the House. "This isn't easy."

Marcia Hoebreckx, 70, of Glendale quizzed Johnson on why the Senate working group on health care was made up of 13 males and no women.

Wisconsin's senior senator answered that he was not responsible for the composition of the committee, noting any senator could join. "I got myself on it," he said.

Ann Zielke, a 36-year-old mother, said her daughter is autistic and that the family counts on Medicaid to cover items, such as speech and occupational  therapy, not covered by the family's private insurance firm.

"My daughter is Isla. She is 4 years old. She works harder than anyone in this room to do daily tasks," Zielke said. "To take her Medicaid away is unconscionable."

Johnson responded, "I understand your point. What I'm going to try to do is whatever I can to make sure we don't pull the rug out from anybody, including your daughter, OK?"
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