Sen. Toomey tele-town hall focuses largely on health care; protesters accuse him of hiding

Health care is intensely personal.

It can be extremely emotional. That was clear Wednesday night outside ABC27 studios as a crowd gathered to protest U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey.

To many of the wheelchair-bound, sign-carrying, slogan-chanting people, Toomey and Republicans have put the scare in health care.

“Pro-life, that’s a lie. You don’t care if people die,” was one of many chants they shouted over a handheld loudspeaker.

They then jeered Toomey as his vehicle arrived at the station on the other side of a barricade and row of police officers. The senator would appear in a tele-town hall event. The protesters insist that he’s ducking the real deal.

“It isn’t much of a town hall when you don’t include the town, huh?,” asked protester Joshua Burkholder. “There’s a lot of questions that Pat needs to answer for and he’s hiding.”

But during the town hall, Toomey took all questions from station-selected participants that represented a cross-section of party, gender and age. The town hall included studio audiences at Nexstar stations in Erie, Altoona and Wilkes-Barre. Most of the conversation centered on health care. Toomey rejects critics who insist the GOP is trying to “cut” Medicaid.

“Each and every year, the federal government is gonna spend more money than it did the year before,” Toomey responded to a question on supposed cuts.

But the senator says the federal government would reduce its share from 90 percent to 57 percent for an Obamacare-created new category of recipient: able-bodied, single, working-age adults without dependents just above the poverty line. That would be a cut and the states would have to shoulder the rest of the burden. He says states should have to pay a fairer share for that class of recipient and can choose whether or not they want to do that.

“If it’s not worth it for the state to pay 43 cents, why is it worth it for federal taxpayers to pay 90 cents?” he asked.

But surely people will then lose coverage when states like Pennsylvania can’t afford to pay for it. Pennsylvania is currently running a $3 billion deficit and is no position to pick up additional costs.

“The federal government is broker than the state,” Toomey said.

“We have to stop this bill from becoming law,” an emphatic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said at a recent rally in the Capitol. The Democrat spoke of doom and gloom if the GOP plan were to become law.

“It’s the decimation of Medicaid,” Casey said. “It’s ripping away healthcare from millions of people, but it’s also giving a huge tax cut to the super rich.”

Toomey said he was aware of Casey’s comments.

“I don’t think it’s very constructive to think an apocalypse will occur by spending more money on Medicaid every year,” Toomey said.

Pennsylvania’s junior senator also noted failings of the current system and insists it’s unsustainable.

“My family and I are on Obamacare,” Toomey said. “We were forced to go on Obamacare. My staff is on Obamacare and we don’t like it,” Toomey said with a slight chuckle.

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