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MacArthur To Hold Town Hall In Burlington County

Courier-Post — May 5, 2017

By Carol Comegno

WILLINGBORO — Rep. Thomas MacArthur will venture into Democrat territory when he holds a town meeting here Wednesday night.

It will be only the second in-person town hall the Republican congressman has scheduled since his re-election in November, and comes a week after the House of Representatives passed a controversial health care bill for which he was one of the architects.

The Willingboro town hall is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the John F. Kennedy Center, 429 John F. Kennedy Way. Seating will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis.

"This is the second open public forum I've held in the past year in Willingboro, where I barely got 10 percent of the vote. I am looking forward to visiting Willingboro again to discuss issues of critical importance to the community," MacArthur said in a written statement.

Of Willingboro's 23,000 voters, 62 percent are registered Democrats. Minorities represent more than 80 percent of its 31,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census.

No bags or signs will be permitted in the Kennedy Center. Public protests are expected outside the building. Due to safety requirements, law enforcement officers will attend and all personal items are subject to search, the congressman's office said.

MacArthur has been criticized, sometimes harshly, since helping author a revised bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act that was approved under Barack Obama's administration. The bill passed the House by a narrow margin of 217 to 213 on Thursday and now heads to the Senate, where it's expected to face tougher scrutiny and skepticism.

An analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office of a previous version of the Republican bill determined it would result in 24 million fewer people with health insurance by 2026. An updated CBO estimate, based on the revised bill, has not been released.

MacArthur was one of only two GOP congressmen from New Jersey who voted for the bill. It has been met with growing opposition from Democrats and some congressional Republicans who say it would cut coverage, increase costs and pose a threat to protections like those for people with pre-existing conditions.

To the contrary, a MacArthur spokeswoman said his efforts would lower healthcare costs and protect people with pre-existing conditions while providing real tax relief for middle-class families.

"His amendment protects pre-existing conditions, and he has never and will never support legislation that does not do so," spokeswoman Camille Gallo said.

The bill allows insurers in some cases to raise premiums on customers with pre-existing conditions.

States can seek waivers from the ACA's prohibition against insurers charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing health problems, but only if the patient lets their insurance lapse for more than two months.

States also could get those waivers if they have mechanisms, such as high-risk pools designed to help cover people with serious and expensive-to-treat diseases, but critics say those pools are often underfunded and ineffective.

Other provisions in the proposed law would eliminate taxes on wealthier insurance customers and let states seek federal waivers that would allow insurers to charge higher premiums for older customers than for younger ones.

Organizations like AARP, the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and American Medical Association also oppose the ACA repeal, as do New Jersey Citizen Action and a new grassroots group, NJ 3rd Congressional District Action Group, which was started by a Riverton woman.

MacArthur's first public forum in Willingboro was on June 6, 2016, before his re-election.

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