About 100 residents turned out Wednesday night for a two-hour town hall-style meeting with U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, covering topics ranging from health care to light bulbs.
Burgess offered his best prediction of when the U.S. Supreme Court would render its decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
In March, the court heard arguments over whether one portion of the health care law, the individual mandate to purchase insurance, was constitutional and, if struck down, whether other portions of the act could stand.
A decision is likely before the court recesses for the summer, Burgess said, predicting it would come Monday or Tuesday.
“Unless it’s next Monday or Tuesday,” he added.
Those people who have benefitted from the reforms, which began in 2010 but are not yet in full effect, and many in Congress are concerned about what might happen if some, or all, of the law is struck down. Burgess said he is ready with legislation that could preserve some reforms.
He was less concerned about a popular provision for parents to keep their children on their health insurance policies until they turn 26 than he was for about 62,000 people with previous conditions who just got coverage with the new law.
“They would lose insurance come July 1,” he said.
He thought existing federal money could be distributed to states that had risk pool programs and states without programs could be encouraged to set them up.
He explained to the audience how the Obama administration struck a deal with pharmaceutical companies to go along with the reforms.
He pledged to help keep provisions that closed the gap between what senior citizens pay for their medication and what insurance will reimburse until new reforms could be drafted, if that became necessary.
“That doughnut hole was closed with money that they [pharmaceutical companies] brought to the table,” Burgess said, adding that future negotiations should happen with congressional committees.
He wasn’t certain what the court’s decision would be.
“I’ve never seen a law this large struck down before,” Burgess said.
Questions from the audience touched on health care, including additional funding to combat Alzheimer’s disease, foreign aid, indefinite detention, banking and monetary policy, the need for better regulation of hydraulic fracturing and Congress’ poor reputation.
The people’s perception is their elected officials aren’t representing the people, but their personal and party interests first, said Denton resident Stewart Hollingshead.
And despite impassioned speeches and strong rhetoric, “we are learning that doesn’t equate to effective governance,” Hollingshead said.
Burgess’ opponent, Democratic Party nominee David Sanchez, was among those who queued up to ask questions.
“Why did you vote against the DREAM Act [Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act] Sanchez said, adding that it would have benefited young adults who came to the U.S. as children through no choice of their own.
Burgess agreed there were many compelling stories to be told, but said the country has a problem with illegal immigration.
He argued the DREAM Act could come back, but that its proponents needed to be willing to address those problems by revisiting worker verification or voter identification programs.
“You have to build consensus,” Burgess said.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org .