As U.S. Rep. Mike Bost began speaking to constituents who signed up to receive a phone call from him Wednesday night, he said he wanted to hear whether people agreed with him or not.
“I don’t shy away from tough questions,” Bost said. “I’ll take as many challenging questions” during the hourlong telephone town hall.
The Republican from Murphysboro answered several questions about the ongoing efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.
He also received criticism from callers about not doing in-person town halls. There have been many instances around the country at other town halls involving Republican lawmakers that have been raucous and chaotic.
One caller from Belleville encouraged Bost to have a town hall in person.
“It’s hard to connect over the phone with just a voice,” Maggie from Belleville said.
Bost responded that when he was in the district recently, he met with about 20 people in his office, met with hospital groups, and a farm bureaus to talk about ongoing issues.
He said he is open to meeting with people in his district offices to listen to their concerns.
“I’ve always been open,” Bost said.
He said he wanted to hear from people whether they agreed with him or not.
During U.S. Rep. Mike Bost’s telephone town hall, he asked constituents to share their stories about how the Affordable Care Act has affected them. Go to bost.house.gov/yourstory to share your story with Bost’s office.
Earlier in the phone call, Bost also said the format allowed people to ask their questions without being interrupted by other attendees.
“In-person town halls have been going awry,” Bost said.
A caller in Marion said he liked the telephone-town-hall format because it prevented people from being disruptive.
“I just want to tell you Southern Illinois is behind you,” the caller said.
Several callers shared their concerns over a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Bost said legislation being considered would still allow people to stay on their parents’ plan until they are 26-years-old, and would bar insurance companies from not selling coverage to someone with pre-existing conditions.
“Your health care is collapsing, so we must do something,” Bost said. “As we move forward I believe you will be covered and will have access to more affordable health coverage.”
He said the Republican-proposed American Health Care Act — also known as Trumpcare, or Ryancare, after Speaker of the House Paul Ryan — would allow for health savings accounts and more competition.
“I know we have to do something, and doing nothing is not an option,” Bost said.
One caller had a concern about going back to what health coverage used to be prior to the ACA.
“It’s not intended to go back to what it was prior to the Affordable Care Act,” Bost said. “We have to move forward because the system is collapsing.”
Bost also said Heath and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has sent letters to governors around the country assuring them they would receive waivers to help them make their systems work.
“It allows states to make their own decisions, not to make you lose you insurance; it’s to make it better,” Bost said.
Your health care is collapsing, so we must do something. As we move forward I believe you will be covered and will have access to more affordable health coverage.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost R-Murphysboro
Bost said the first step in the repeal-and-replace process is the AHCA. Other phases include administrative changes that can be made by Price, and other legislative changes.
A caller from Herrin said that under the Affordable Care Act, he had to pay into his employer-provided insurance when he didn’t have to before, and his deductible went up.
“Obamacare led to more expenses and less coverage,” the caller said.
Bost also said he liked the plans to strip money from Planned Parenthood and shift it to local health departments that help with women’s needs. He said there are about 30 health departments in his district and only one Planned Parenthood location.
There were a couple of questions on immigration, including concerns about the possibility of breaking up families. There also was discussion about those who come to the country to work in agricultural jobs.
“We don’t want to break up families. We must secure the border; it might not have to be a full wall,” Bost said. “We need to make sure existing laws are enforced.”
Caseyville resident David, who said he recently retired from the Army, asked about the hiring freeze and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Many vets have retired and separated from the military,” David said. “Many veterans are capable of serving but cannot because of the hiring freeze.”
Bost said the hiring freeze is temporary and not uncommon when there is a new administration. He added workforce reduction are very small — less than .02 percent.
“We are working specifically with the VA and the Department of Defense, so they can work with those being discharged and retiring can make a smooth transition,” Bost said.
There also was a comment from Fred in Caseyville about President Donald Trump’s possible connections to Russia, and one caller said there should be an independent committee looking into it.
“They helped him win this election,” the caller said.
The caller asked Bost to ask for Trump’s tax returns.
Bost said there is a bipartisan committee in Congress investigating the connections.
“The committee is getting information from all sides,” Bost said.
Bost received a question about the construction of the new headquarters of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency slated to be built in St. Louis — and not in St. Clair County.
Bost reiterated his concerns with the selection of north St. Louis because of safety and security reasons and additional costs that are expected there. He said he plans to relay those concerns to the new administration.
At a glance
- During U.S. Rep. Mike Bost’s telephone town hall, he asked constituents to share their stories about how the Affordable Care Act has affected them. Go to bost.house.gov/yourstory to share your story with Bost’s office.