Editor’s note: At one point Congressman Duncan Hunter refers to block grants for Medicare. These are direct quotes from sound recorded st the venue, however these block grants are for the Medicaid program.
March 11, 2017 (Ramona) The venue was packed to capacity. There were hundreds more, at least, outside. Tubs with questions were ready to be plucked. The audience was tense, and the theater was dim. By our estimate, at least two-thirds of the public was not friendly to Congressman Duncan Hunter, and each one of them filled a card with a question.
There were themes, and the largest block of questions involved the American Health Care Act, (AHCA) dubbed Trumpcare.
In his opening statement Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-50) said “I am just happy to be here, and coming out and telling you what I believe in, whether you like it, or not you will always know where I stand.” He also said that he would try to answer questions very quickly and in a fortnight manner. However, his answers at times took minutes.
He added in the introduction that he is happy to see President (Donald) Trump in office. This was followed by boos from the audience, as well as some cheers. This set the tone for the rest of the meeting. While in his introduction he said that the Affordable Care Act would be replaced, later on, he explained that some sections would survive.
He explained this after he was asked about the effect of “trump care” on the most vulnerable among us, and what was his stance on the bill? The question also included if he was willing to wait for the Congressional Budget Office to score the bill? This is a standard procedure for all bills that have a fiscal impact. Hunter went into a long explanation of how the legislative process will proceed.
“I’m in the House of Representatives. Anything that we pass to the Senate has to have 60 votes. We have 52 Republican Senators right now. There is no way that we can pass a bill to repeal, or to replace totally like we would like through a process called reconciliation.” This is when the Senate and House Versions of a draft law are brought together by members of both bodies to equalize the language.
Reconciliation requires a fiscal analysis on the bill. “There is no full repeal possible through reconciliation.” He added that he was in favor of two sections of the ACA, such as young people staying on their parent’s insurance until they were 26, and the ability of individuals who have preexisting conditions to still find medical insurance. He also said that as far as Medicare is concerned, he is in favor of block grants to the states. He is also in favor of Health Savings Accounts, which favor the wealthy.
When he was challenged, he told the crowd: “I find it amazing that you all want the Federal Government, which is a bunch of white guys in DC to be making decisions for you.”
Hunter also said that he is not in favor of full coverage, but instead, he is in favor of full access. He was later challenged by Dante Consentino on this. Consentino is a senior citizen, who said that it is great that he can have access to a first-class seat on a plane, that does not mean he can afford it. He was pointing out to the steep rise in costs for people in their 50s and 60s. Hunter did not give any real answer to that point.
One older constituent, even after the full explanation of why it would not be entirely repealed, told Hunter that she was in favor of a full repeal. Partly because her daughter is in Arizona and in the individual market. As a general rule, those in the individual market, have been the losers under the ACA, and have seen fast increases in insurance rates.
The second theme was immigration
Hunter agrees with the president on a ban from certain countries. He was challenged from the audience and conceded that the way the first executive order was done was wrong. Particularly as it did not prioritize those who served alongside US Troops for special visas. He accused the previous administration of not doing that, and not doing any vetting whatsoever. However, Foreign Policy disproves this statement.
A young Marine Veteran also challenged the Congressman and asked if there is a way to get a form of identification that will prove he is a United States Citizen. He is latino, and cannot go anywhere, especially in the Southern Part of the County, without getting challenged by Border Patrol. He put it well and stated that he is afraid. We did not get his name.
Finally, he was asked one question about Syria, which Hunter said was the place where to defeat the Islamic States. He also promised that the Marines there (400 from Camp Pendleton), will go in and out. They will not stay. This is not a permanent deployment.
Reporting San Diego spoke with two challengers for the 2018 cycle. The first was Patrick Malloy, who challenged him last time around and expects to do the same in 2018. Malloy has for the moment the support of the Democratic Party of San Diego. “I am running to represent the 50th Congressional District.” Then he added that while he will seek the nomination of the Democratic Party, he was not in Ramona “to represent any particular party. president or donor, or special interest group. I am here to represent these people.”
He also said it would be his responsibly “to make sure that their tax dollars are spent correctly.” He was directly pointing to the spending scandal that now surrounds Hunter. This includes spending money on rabbits to fly in a plane, his children school lunches and other amenities. Hunter has said this was a mistake, and today he promised that he is repaying the money. You can read the Union Tribune article here.
Back to Malloy. Regarding health care, he said, “I sand for affordable health care for all. In other worlds a single health care system.” This way everybody will have healthcare.
He also said that “we all should get the same healthcare that our representative gets right now. There should be no difference between the two of us.”
“The main support that I seek is from the people in the district.” It is not that they are looking to vote against Hunter, but that they “are looking for somebody who is going to do something for them.”
The second challenger was Gloria Chadwick, who not only asked Hunter about the least among us but also told him that she was going to run against him. She is a Registered Nurse and the Vice President of the Grossmont Health Care District Board of Directors. One of the reasons: Hunter’s personal spending habits. We spoke with her after the event.
She is running on healthcare, the environment, “Medicare, I don’t want anything to happen to Medicare.”
She added, “I represent a hospital, and I don’t want to see us go back in time.” Her worry and she is not alone, is that we would go back to the era when all indigent care was done at emergency rooms. Not only is it more expensive. But as she pointed out, it will lengthen waits from two hours to five.
Chadwick pointed to the Grossmont Hospital system, which is “one of the most crowded hospitals in California. It is in the top 5 percent in the United States. She also pointed out that this two-hour wait might become a major crisis due to lack of care.
Regarding the increase of cost for Seniors, which the American Association of Retired People (AARP) says could be as high as 5 times as high, Chadwick said that seniors will have to go get jobs to afford health care. Seniors, “They are all on fixed incomes.” Therefore they cannot afford the cost of health care.
Regarding the Environmental Protection Agency, she said that it has indeed cleaned the environment. And made a reference to Los Angeles, the air is cleaner. With this, we will see a return to more polluted air with the increase in both asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD.)
In Alpine, both of those were high at one time. This is what the elimination of the EPA would mean. Hunter is committed to eliminating the EPA since according to him, it has hurt American business.
Edited for clarity