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The Eagle: Health care dominates Rep. Flores' remote town hall meeting

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Bryan, July 26, 2017 | comments
By Kelan Lyons

Constituents from the southern counties of District 17 called in or left online comments asking U.S. Rep. Bill Flores questions on topics ranging from the Russia investigation to immigration to climate change at a remote town hall that ran late into Tuesday night.

Health care dominated the night's discussion, with 30 percent of poll question respondents saying that health care was the most important issue facing America today. Several constituents asked questions on a variety of topics, from veteran health care benefits to the possibility of a single-payer health care system to reforming the Affordable Care Act instead of repealing and replacing it with Republican-passed legislation.

Flores said the ACA is "absolutely failing," calling former President Barack Obama's signature domestic legislation "fundamentally flawed" because it "violated the rules of free-market economics."

"Obamacare is ... so broken that insurance companies are having to pull out of the markets," Flores said.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, changes in insurer participation have led some insurers to withdraw from the ACA marketplaces. Premiums on the ACA marketplace are expected to increase because of a combination of factors, including substantial losses experienced by many insurers, according to the foundation.

Flores called for repealing and replacing the ACA, after which Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price would reverse some of the regulations. The congressman also called for increased transparency in hospitals, so those seeking health care could know the true cost of their treatment.

After a caller asked Flores about the possibility of a single-payer system, in which the government would provide some form of coverage for all Americans, Flores said profit-driven health care has allowed the U.S. to be a leading innovator in the field. In addition, Flores said, a single-payer system would lead to "some bureaucrat sitting in a cubicle" determining what the appropriate options for health care are for a given patient.

After a constituent asked when Democrats and Republicans would join together to pass legislation, Flores said "one of the big disappointments" he found when he took office in 2011 was seeing elected representatives who believed "just because they've got a party tag next to their name means they have to fight with each other."

Flores said that about 70 percent of bills passed this year were done so with bipartisan votes, "but every now and then one side or the other decides to get in a political cheap shot." He then blamed Democrats for "having show votes to score cheap political points" by calling for a vote for the president to release his tax returns.

"I'm hoping that the environment will change. I'm not optimistic, but I hope it will," Flores said.

As he did in his April remote town halls, Flores conducted polls of respondents on issues ranging from the most important issue facing the country (health care) to the greatest threat facing the U.S. (North Korea) to what Congress should get done (again, health care) among other topics. One of the polls dealt with a long-running point of contention: whether constituents prefer in-person or remote town halls. The vast majority of respondents -- 71 percent -- indicated they preferred the remote town halls to in-person ones.

Flores ended the night with a hint of optimism, asking constituents to consider praying for the country and its military and first responders to protect Americans at home.

"Our country has some challenges these days," he said, "but there's nothing that's insurmountable."

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