Vermont Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke at a town hall meeting hosted by MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes on Sunday. The town hall took place in McDowell County, West Virginia, and focused on how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has affected the residents’ lives and what they believe would happen to them if it is repealed, as it is currently being debated in Congress.
Republican President Donald Trump took West Virginia in a 69 percent to 26 percent landslide against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential election, with the remaining votes being split primarily between Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
Just because Trump won the state handily doesn’t mean that all of the voters there — or even all of those who voted for him there — support his efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with the American Health Care Reform Act of 2017 being pushed by Republicans.
— McSpocky™???? (@mcspocky) March 14, 2017
A major sticking point for those who oppose the ACA being repealed and replaced is the potential loss of funding for Medicaid, a government program that assists economically disadvantaged Americans by providing them with healthcare. Under the ACA, Medicaid was substantially expanded, providing assistance to millions more Americans in need. If the ACA is repealed and replaced with the American Health Care Reform Act, many of those who gained coverage under the ACA could lose it — regardless of how dire their healthcare needs may be.
“As expected, the House bill essentially eliminates the enhanced funding levels that made possible states’ expansion of Medicaid to their poorest working-age adult residents, something that 31 states and the District of Columbia now have done,” Health Affairs explains. “Expansion states could face up to a 40-point difference between the federal funding enhancements they expected to receive in 2020 for the expansion population and what they actually would receive under the bill. What is at stake is continued coverage for some 11 million of the more than 16 million people who have gained eligibility since full implementation of the ACA Medicaid expansion.”
When Hayes asked of the town hall attendees “How many people in the room are either on Medicaid or someone they know and love is on Medicaid?” nearly every person raised their hand.
Hayes then asked Bernie Sanders what he thought losing the Medicaid expansion would mean for the people of McDowell County.
Sen. Bernie Sanders — who rarely stops to talk to reporters in the Capitol — says “thousands of people will die” if AHCA passes. pic.twitter.com/zAT7iHXKuA
— Emma Loop (@LoopEmma) March 13, 2017
Sanders began by saying that, unlike many of his colleagues in Congress, he believes that healthcare is a right and that the country should move towards providing a Medicaid-for-all, single-payer style of healthcare system.
The comment met with enthusiastic applause from the attendees.
Sanders then dug into some of the specifics of what repealing and replacing the ACA with the Republican plan might look like.
“When you look at the Republican bill, it should not be seen as a healthcare bill because throwing millions of people off of healthcare is not healthcare legislation. What it should be seen as is a huge tax break for the wealthiest people in this country. At a time when we have a massive level of income and wealth inequality, where the rich are getting much richer while the middle-class shrinks, this legislation would provide, over a ten-year period, $275 billion in tax breaks to the top 2 percent. So when people tell you that we don’t have a money to invest in McDowell County or rebuild our infrastructure nationally, but we do have $275 billion to give to the top 2 percent who are already doing phenomenally well – when they tell you they don’t have the money, don’t believe them.”
You can watch a clip of the Bernie Sanders town hall meeting on the ACA below.
The response of the people at the Bernie Sanders town hall meeting was indicative of the tensions among American voters, and even within the Republican Party, over repealing the ACA. The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress who favor the American Health Care Reform Act have met resistance from some Republican voters and legislators.
Millions of Republicans are enrolled in Medicaid or other insurance plans under the ACA and are anxious about losing coverage or benefits. On the other hand, as the New York Times recently reported, more conservative Republicans and special interest groups feel that the new plan still has too much in common with the ACA.
[Featured image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]