Obamacare vs. Trumpcare: The Town Hall Debate Coming to a City Near You

Posted June 5, 2017
By George McLaughlin

One of the most interesting (and encouraging) byproducts of the ongoing battle to repeal and replace The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is the surge of grassroots activism by concerned citizens looking for answers.

Across the nation, town hall meetings—which are often sparsely attended events that bring representatives and constituents together to discuss low-stakes affairs like whether or not the city should turn the old community pool into a skate park—have become battlegrounds for tense debates over how Trump’s new bill will (or won’t) improve healthcare.

These meeting have given us clips of citizens lighting into their representatives, and for better or worse, the ultimate foot-in-mouth moments have become commonplace.

At the heart of this movement is Andy Slavitt. If you aren’t familiar with the former head of the CMS turned healthcare evangelist, I’d highly recommend reading this profile from Eric Boodman at STAT News.

Slavitt is on a mission to save Obamacare, or at the very least, influence enough Republican representatives to drive significant change to the current legislation. His two major weapons are his prolific Twitter account that provides near real-time updates on the evolving health policy debate and his ongoing, in-person tour of town halls hosted in primarily red districts across the United States.

Supporters of Trumpcare will argue that these town halls, while well attended and full of passionate opponents of the bill, represent a vocal minority. Jim Sensenbrenner, a long-serving Republican politician from Wisconsin, is quick to note that while his town halls have become contentious affairs, he won his last election by 146,000 votes and feels confident the majority of his constituents support his alignment with the administration.

In this era, where polls are no longer trusted and fragmented media channels offer everyone the comfort of operating in a self-affirming echo chamber, the truth is still unclear.

What is clear, though, is that the discussion is happening and anyone who feels strongly can voice their opinion—one way or the other. If you’re interested in finding a town hall near you, or organizing one yourself, check out the Town Hall Project.

In the meantime, here is a clip of Andy Slavitt’s recent Facebook Live Q&A session. Hear one of the most passionate defenders of Obamacare articulate his position and see which side you’re on.