U.S. Congressman Roger Marshall said he expected an energetic crowd when he visited Manhattan for a town hall stop Saturday inside the K-State Alumni Center.
He was right — though the tone was more respectful and calm compared to what other House Republicans have experienced across the country.
Still, Marshall heard plenty of boos and dissension in the Tadtman Boardroom, which was filled to capacity and had onlookers standing next to walls and sitting on tables pushed out of the way for the event. But even those detractors urged the freshman representative to “be courageous” against influences of Washington and the White House itself. Instead, they implored Marshall to serve the needs of the people in his district — one that, since reconfigured in 2014, encompasses Manhattan, Salina and the rest of the Sunflower State from Hays to the Colorado border.
Although the American Health Care Act, introduced and crafted by Republicans and the Trump administration, was pulled in dramatic fashion before a vote in the House on March 24, Marshall told the Topeka Capital Journal on March 23 he’d back the bill.
On the same day Marshall said he would vote for the AHCA, a Quinnipiac University poll revealed it had an approval rating of just 17 percent with voters.
“This is probably the more vocal group I’ve seen — the most vocal — which didn’t surprise me,” Marshall told KMAN after the town hall. “Healthcare is a very polarizing subject right now, and people have strong, strong opinions on it.”
Sprinkled throughout the diverse audience were signs supporting Medicaid expansion and nearly every person had blank cards both red and green in color. When members of the audience agreed with Marshall, they’d show the green card. If there was disagreement, the red card would rise in view of the freshman representative.
Marshall, the Great Bend obstetrician who decisively ousted Tea Party member Tim Huelskamp in the August primary last year, saw more of the red card.
While healthcare was the most popular topic, it wasn’t the only one. Many tried to get Marshall to acknowledge their worries when it came to climate change, but Marshall disputed one person who told him 97 percent of the scientific community agrees human activity is a contributor. Marshall was again booed and red cards rose from the audience.
“Actually, probably half the scientists don’t agree that it’s as black and white as you say it is,” Marshall said to boos and shouts of “false!” from the crowd.
“I understand that,” Marshall responded. “You can boo all you want to, but I’m up here to make objective decisions.”
A report from NASA backs the 97 percent claim.
Marshall was also approached about comments he made about the poor in the context of healthcare a month ago, which made rounds in national headlines. On March 3, Marshall told STAT, a Boston Globe-owned news outlet that focuses on medical and human health issues, that, “Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us,’” and that the poor “is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves.”
One man at the town hall, who, like Marshall, identifies as a devout Christian, challenged those comments.
“When you quoted (the Bible), you twisted it, in what I think is a very significant and meaningful way,” the man told Marshall.
“Your citation of the passage was that the poor will always be with us, and what you’ve done is taken Jesus’ words, and turned them into a political and economic statement about poverty, assuming it will last forever and always be with us, and that poverty is something created by God, okay?” the man continued. “In doing that, you’ve let yourself off the hook, for the poor people, that you’re talking about.
“And worse, was your continuing of that comment, if it was quoted correctly, to say the poor don’t really want health — they don’t really care about their health — which seems to me so totally opposite to both what Jesus said and what Jesus means, that I really question the use of your faith, and I think that we ought to press you on your faith as the way you turned that into politics.”
After the applause from the crowd died down, Marshall clarified his statements.
“I appreciate the chance to get to explain that,” Marshall responded. “Never before — never in my lifetime — has what was reported so contrary to what my heart was trying to say.”
The crowd didn’t like that, though, and groaned. Marshall noticed.
“Now why would you rush to judgement? Why would you rush to judgment?” Marshall said, further explaining his words were taken out of context.
But some in the crowd told Marshall their skepticism was due to policies coming out of Washington.
Marshall said he feels society has “an obligation” to take care of the poor, but added he wanted Medicaid expansion out of the bill and specified his comments.
“What I meant by the poor people not using healthcare, is that they won’t use primary healthcare — they tend to end up in our emergency rooms,” he said, before being cut off by more groans, with some telling Marshall the poor he referenced don’t have primary healthcare coverage to use.
“You’re exactly right,” Marshall responded. “It is not working, you’re exactly right, they do not have good healthcare.”
Marshall then went back to his practice and career. He told the crowd about free clinics he’s set up and his commitment to providing care before ultimately offering amends.
“I’ve made a lifetime out of helping people,” he said. “This was taken out of context. I apologize. I was embarrassed when the article came out that it was taken out of context. That is not who I am. That is not who my family is. I have never turned a patient away based upon their ability to pay, and continue to accept Medicaid, though many of my colleagues do not.
“So that’s all I meant, and I apology that you were offended. That was not my intention.”
The room responded with applause and green cards were raised.
Sarah Wesch, a licensed clinical psychologist in Manhattan, liked the showing of constituents like herself.
“I was really excited to see how many people showed up,” she said. “I think it was a pretty consistent message that people here in Manhattan are really wanting real reform. They are wanting major changes in healthcare — not just changes in health insurance, but really, they want to see the cost of healthcare come down.
“Whether or not Dr. Marshall really absorbed that or not, I’m not sure, but I’m really proud of the local citizens coming out and stating their voices on healthcare, on immigration and the environment.”
Wesch, who was one of a dozen audience members who formally addressed Marshall, appreciated his patience.
“There was a lot of energy in the room — a lot of hooting and hollering,” she said. “I know it was a little hard for Dr. Marshall — and I did feel sorry for him that people were interrupting, people had a lot of energy. People were feeling a lot of dissent, and I think that’s just a part of our climate today.”
The post Marshall holds testy town hall, apologizes for comments about the poor appeared first on News Radio KMAN.
Source: KMAN Local News