Burlington County Times

MacArthur Responds To Health Care Attacks From Both The Left And The Right

Burlington County Times — April 12, 2017

By David Levinsky, staff writer

EVESHAM — Tom MacArthur may be the epitome of a moderate in Washington.

The Republican representative of New Jersey's 3rd Congressional District intentionally uses the Democrat entrances to the House chambers, seeks Democrat co-sponsors for the legislation he pens and co-chairs a caucus of about 50 "centrist" Republicans dedicated to finding compromise on some of the nation's thorniest issues.

He's also getting attacked by groups from both the left and the right for his support of the Republican health care overhaul, which imploded last month due to a lack of support within the GOP.

Both the conservative Club For Growth and the liberal Save My Care have launched advertisements bashing MacArthur for voicing support for the ill-fated American Health Care Act, which sought to undo much of former President Barack Obama's 7-year-old Affordable Care Act.

MacArthur, who is also deeply involved in ongoing talks among GOP leaders about ways to possibly revive the legislation, responded Wednesday saying he's unmoved by the attacks, the latest of which is hitting the airwaves during Congress' two-week recess when most lawmakers are back in their home districts.

The Club For Growth launched web and television ads attacking MacArthur in late March when Republican leaders were still trying to whip votes for the health care bill. The group claimed the legislation did not go far enough in removing the Affordable Care Act's rules and mandates.

Save My Care launched its own ads in the 3rd District this week slamming MacArthur for voicing support for the legislation after he successfully negotiated additions of billions in funding to help older Americans pay for coverage and for seniors and disabled residents enrolled in Medicaid.

He is one of seven Republicans nationwide the group is targeting with what it called a "seven-figure" ad buy. Protesters also held vigil outside MacArthur's news conference Wednesday.

MacArthur said the groups are essentially attacking him for his willingness to compromise on a difficult and important policy matter.

"One group says not enough and another says too much, well welcome to the face of compromise," he said Wednesday during a news conference at his constituent office in Evesham.

"That's what compromise is. You don't get everything you want. It's about finding a path in the middle that can satisfy many different types of peoples' concerns. And I have always acted that way."

Finding a compromise on health care has been particularly difficult for the second-term congressman who was the only member of New Jersey's congressional delegation to indicate he'd vote "yes" on the controversial legislation.

His support surprised many in Washington and New Jersey since he originally voted "no" on a House budget resolution intended to make it easier for an Obamacare repeal bill to clear the U.S. Senate.

MacArthur said he voted against the resolution because he preferred the party include Democrats in the crafting of the legislation. When it became clear House leadership would move forward anyway, MacArthur said he decided to take a lead role in improving the legislation.

While he admitted the bill was not perfect, MacArthur said it was much improved over earlier versions that he said maintained the so-called "Cadillac tax" on high-cost health plans, as well as rolled back federal funding for the expansion of Medicaid rather than capping payments to states based on their post-expansion enrollment and costs.

During the frantic days before the scuttled vote, MacArthur also convinced Trump and other Republican leaders to agree to amendments adding some $160 billion in additional funding to help vulnerable populations such as seniors, disabled and pregnant mothers.

During Wednesday's news conference, MacArthur told reporters he's offered a new amendment he believes might bridge the divide between the conservative and moderate members of the GOP conference.

He declined to reveal the specifics yet, but said it had been received well by the president and that it touches on "how we protect the most vulnerable and give the states enough flexibility to bring down costs and increase the numbers of insurers."

He also said it has language specifically protecting women and people with pre-existing health conditions to make sure they aren't denied coverage or discriminated against.

Save My Care's ad specifies that MacArthur was not fighting to protect people with pre-existing conditions.

"Congressman MacArthur promised to protect our health care," says the narrator in the ad. "But when right-wing politicians tried to pass a disastrous health care repeal bill that raises costs and cuts coverage, MacArthur wouldn't oppose them ... and isn't fighting to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions."

MacArthur called the last charge a "blatant falsehood" and cited his own experiences as the father of a special-needs child. Before his first daughter, Gracie, died, his family had over $1 million in medical bills, he said.

"I know what it's like to fight with insurance companies and with doctors who overcharge," he said.

Meaghan Smith, a spokeswoman for Save My Care, said MacArthur can't voice support for protecting people with pre-existing conditions and the proposed health care legislation.

"If Congressman MacArthur is concerned about his constituents' response to the ad, then this is his opportunity to publicly say he will vote against the House Republican leadership and the Trump administration's proposal that would gut protections for people across New Jersey with pre-existing conditions," Smith said. "But Congressman MacArthur has not done that."

In addition to the commercials, local opponents organized by groups such as New Jersey Citizen Action and Indivisible have vowed to continue pressuring MacArthur to oppose any repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

The groups held a demonstration on the shoulder of Main Street outside MacArthur's constituent office after the congressman's news conference.

Among those protesting was Charles Murawski, a resident of LeisureTowne in Southampton. He's primarily covered by Medicare but is concerned that the GOP's proposal will drive up his out-of-pocket costs and the expense for his supplemental plans.

He said MacArthur should work with other lawmakers to try to fix or improve the Affordable Care Act rather than repeal and replace it.

"If something's broken in your kitchen, do you pull out the entire counter or get a 50-cent washer to fix it?" Murawski said.

Other demonstrators called on the congressman to hold a town hall meeting in Burlington County dedicated to health care concerns.

MacArthur, who held a town hall in Waretown last month during a congressional recess, said he has several meetings planned with constituents during the current break and that he welcomes civil discourse with people with different views and perspectives, as well as civil demonstrations.

He was also critical of Citizen Action and Indivisible, arguing that they use paid organizers and were encouraging people from outside the 3rd District to attend protests.

As proof, MacArthur and his staff shared a copy of an email written by Indivisible supporters describing plans for Wednesday's protest and another demonstration. The email indicated New Jersey Citizen Action was asking supporters from "other districts to come to increase the numbers."

MacArthur said the actions were deceptive and divisive.

"Lying, false advertising, fear-mongering is not bringing our country together, it's dividing us further, and I'm calling for a stop to it," he said.

Maura Collinsgru, a leader with New Jersey Citizen Action, attended Wednesday's protest and said the group planned to continue to encourage New Jersey residents — both from the 3rd District and outside of it — to pressure MacArthur on the issue.

"Tom MacArthur is the only member of the congressional delegation who supports this bill that will devastate the people and treasury of this state," she said. "We think everyone in New Jersey should call this congressman."
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