Protesters raged outside the Sheraton Hotel in McKinney Wednesday afternoon as high-profile U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, held a cozy town hall with about 50 veterans focused on veterans’ issues.
The jeering throngs were frustrated mostly with Cruz’ role in trying to pass the American Health Care Act, the Republican attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Inside, the discussion was much cooler, but tensions mounted when the topic turned to health care.
The conversation took a turn when Allen psychologist Misty Hook, who said she serves as a Veterans Affairs overflow doctor and counsels veterans at a discounted rate, asked Cruz about reimbursements under the potential new health care plan.
“You all on The Hill are scaring the living daylights out of us with the health care nonsense that you’re doing,” she said. “When you have things saying that insurance companies can opt out of paying for health care, mental health care, then who’s going to pay us to do that?”
Cruz spent the latter third of the session tip-toeing around answering that question, talking at length instead about why Obamacare needs to be repealed in the first place and why he thinks more left–leaning ideas won’t work.
“Bernie’s view, he wants free everything for everyone,” he said. “In a world where you believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and pixie fairies, you can give free everything to everyone, but in the real world, that doesn’t work.”
Cruz was referring to sen. Bernie Sanders’, I–Vermont, Medicare-for-all plan, which is similar in principle to universal health care plans used by Australia, Canada and several European nations.
He was frequently interrupted during this portion by veterans telling him to answer the question — who is going to pay for health care over the next few years — but with the legislation still pending, no one is certain of that right now.
Hook was asking about a key provision in the AHCA that would give states the ability to reduce the types of coverage that are mandatory in every health care plan. The theory is that this will allow insurance companies to offer a more diverse range of less comprehensive, and therefore cheaper, plans. However, there is some debate over whether or not this will actually lower total premiums.
The fear, as detailed by Seth Chandler in his July 3 column in Forbes, is that this will segment the population between low risk and high risk consumers. Healthier people buying separate plans could reduce the amount of money going into the total health care pool and ultimately drive prices back up again to compensate. Offering cheaper but less comprehensive options also does nothing to help poor Americans with larger coverage needs.
Cruz recently proposed an amendment to the bill that would allow all insurance companies to offer plans that do not comply with current law as long as they also offer plans that do, expanding the reach of lower-coverage plans. This amendment could be the key to passing the legislation.
During the main portion of the meeting, Cruz talked about his fight to audit the Pentagon, his experience in an F–35 simulator and what moderator and policy director for Concerned Veterans for America Dan Caldwell called the reform-failure cycle of veterans affairs facilities.
Cruz, who was a favorite of the Tea Party and was first elected in 2012 when it was the most active, argued for government accountability and talked about the difficulty of getting things done in Washington.
“Some of those challenges are … just dealing with the leviathan of federal bureaucracy,” he said. “It can be confusing, it can be maddening, it can make your head explode.”
The full presentation is available online on the YouTube channel ConcernedVets.