The raucous constituent crowd of about 175 booed and cheered throughout the two hour town hall with Republican Rep. Mike Coffman at Prairie View High School, in Henderson, Colo., August 1, 2017.

Allison Sherry/CPR News

Rep. Mike Coffman stressed his ideas for health care reform, his displeasure for President Trump’s tweeting and how to move forward on immigration reform in a wide-ranging town hall that drew 177 constituents to the northern Denver suburb of Henderson.

Taking questions for almost two hours, Coffman called his party’s work on repealing the Affordable Care Act insufficient and touted a bipartisan group he joined that is trying to craft other solutions — including keeping traditionally covered Medicaid populations including disabled and poor people, out of the current debate.

Coffman voted against the House measure to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Worried about people with pre-existing conditions, he said he also didn’t want vulnerable Medicaid populations affected.

“I think there is still a lot of anxiety on what’s going to happen,” Coffman said, noting he met with a mother and a disabled child at his last town hall who said her uncertainty convinced him that traditional Medicaid should be taken out of the repeal legislation. “I think we owe it to the American people to make access to health insurance more affordable and right now for those who don’t get insurance through their employers or through the government, it’s a very tough road for them.”

Colorado's 6th Congressional District

(Jim Hill, CPR / OpenStreetMap, CARTO)

Coffman’s Congressional District, which spans Centennial all the way up here near Brighton, is among the most "swing" of swing districts in the country. The five-term Republican is routinely marked as one of the most politically vulnerable members of Congress.

Just a few weeks ago, Coffman wrote a letter to GOP leaders in the House and the Senate with ideas on how to move forward on health reform that included taking care of high-cost people with pre-existing conditions. He said Tuesday that could be paid for by levying a tax on all insurance products – like life insurance – that would raise money to subsidize the coverage for the most expensive and sickest patients.

“If you can take care of the high-cost people, then you can allow freedom of choice for everyone else and lower the cost for everyone else,” he said.

Coffman also took questions on Trump, immigration reform and partisanship on Capitol Hill. He said he believed more in Colorado than he does in Washington and that he thinks Congressional districts should be more competitive – like his. He called partisanship among the worst problems in federal politics.

“I don’t think compromise is a pejorative,” he said. “I don’t know how you govern without ever compromising.”

On Trump, he said he wants the president to succeed, but he said the White House has been “defined” in chaos.

“I’ve always been disappointed in some of the things he’s done,” Coffman said, noting he wishes he would stop tweeting and stepping on his own message.

Asked whether he thinks he will be hurt by Trump in his quest for a re-election next year, Coffman said, “I think people in the district see me as an independent voice.”

The crowd more often turned on each other than the congressman during the event. One man at the microphone asked Coffman how the United States was supposed to pay for “all of the health care for everyone.” A woman who identified herself as a home health worker stood in the front row and shouted back to him, “I work hard and I sweat! How dare you!”

At the end of an hour of taking questions, Coffman’s press assistant tried to end the town hall. The congressman waved him off and said he wanted to keep going. An aide said after it was over that no one was kicked out, despite strict rules on being considerate.

On immigration, Coffman told the crowd he supports creating a permanent work visa program, similar to former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals for so-called dreamers who were brought to the United States as children.

Coffman, who has in the last couple of years embarked on learning Spanish, said he supported immigration reform that both secured the border and kept families in the United States together.

“We need a secure border,” he said. “I think it’s important to give certainty to the young people who are here but I have a conservative vision about where we ought to go, but I think we need a transition period.”

Noah Tonk is a Denver Public Schools middle school principal who asked one of the many questions about health care. After the town hall, Tonk, who says his premiums are high and he also pays taxes, said he was disappointed there wasn’t more talk about the “morality” of the country’s current health care debate.

“It’s a tough job, and I don’t envy him and his job having to come here and answer to people who are upset,” Tonk said. “I think there were a number of questions he failed to answer, which is not atypical of the profession unfortunately … I think he could have done a better job.”

Watch Rep. Mike Coffman's August Town Hall

 

 

Posted by Congressman Mike Coffman on Tuesday, August 1, 2017