Town hall on healthcare turns into heated dispute

Democrats and Republicans clash outside of town hall held by Congressman Ted Lieu to discusss health care in Stevenson Ranch, Calif. on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2017 Christian Monterrosa/ The Signal

Oak Hills Elementary quickly became the stage of a political debate on Saturday when Congressman Ted Lieu, representative of the 33rd congressional district, paid the residents of the 25th district a visit.

When Natalie Thomas took the stage to lead the pledge of allegiance and a moment of silence for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, it would be the only time that the audience would be at peace.

Thomas introduced her husband, Evan, an air force veteran and moderator of the town hall.

He welcomed to the stage expert health care guest speakers like Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, Dinah Stephens, Sr. Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, and Dr. Sonali Saluja.

Each speaker briefly presented anecdotal examples of people who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act and explained how the president’s plan to replace the ACA will affect millions.

Loyal supporters of President Trump in the audience outwardly expressed disapproval of  Ted Lieu’s message chanting “respect our president” and “go home Ted.” They were annoyed that Lieu was visiting the territory of Republican Congressman Steve Knight.

Congressman Ted Lieu of the 33rd district, addresses SCV residents on issues surrounding healthcare in Stevensons Ranch, Calif. on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2017 Christian Monterrosa/ The Signal

From the stage, Lieu explained how the proposed healthcare bill from Republicans “would have raised people’s premiums in 2018 and 2020,” and it would have caused millions of people to lose healthcare coverage “including hundreds of thousands in Southern California.”

While a new healthcare bill recently failed to pass, a new executive order by President Trump now threatens the current system.

By ending ACA subsidies, health care providers will no longer receive government funds that help keep deductibles and other expenses affordable for many.

Lieu warned the audience that new “fake insurance” plans will spring up that offer cheap plans for the healthy, but will raise the cost for those who actually need it.

“When these subsidies get cut, it creates chaos in the marketplace and it increases premiums,” said Lieu.

To which some in the crowd yelled in disagreement and called him a liar, but were ultimately drowned out by the cheering.

“[The president] tweeted out that he did this, and now he wants Dems to call him. Well guess what? You know who is going to call him? People with cancer, people with diabetes, people whose children are very sick,” said Lieu.

“What makes America great is that every two years voters get to change the makeup of Congress,” he said.

His criticism of the president continued throughout his speech and continued to fuel the fire of the dozen people proudly wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and holding up signs that read “fire the big rat.”

Trump supporters hold up signs and yell at Congressman Ted Lieu during a town hall on health care in Stevensons Ranch, Calif. on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2017 Christian Monterrosa/ The Signal

When the town hall finally opened up for questions, Melainey Foerster, 15, asked Congressman Lieu what the biggest threat to American’s is today.

After replying that it was North Korea, Lieu took the opportunity to highlight the president’s undermining of Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, that jeopardizes any possible diplomacy with the nuclear threatening country.

The town hall continued to be a triangle of insults between Congressman Lieu and those on both political and stage right, until the congressman thanked the crowd and took his leave.

“Healthcare affects everyone including those in Southern California, so I will go to different places and talk about important issues,” Congressman Lieu told the Signal when asked why he was visiting the 25th district.

“California has been a success story under the Affordable Care Act but there’s only so much any state can do when the White House starts to defund the ACA,” said Lieu.

The congressman has drawn much criticism over his obvious condemnation of President Trump, but Lieu finds it necessary to defend those who the president attacks.

“I was brought up to stand up to bullies, and when i see the president try to bully people on social media or in his speeches or in his actions, I’m going to stand up to him,” he said.

“I’m gonna continue to do my duty as a member of Congress to act as a check and balance to the president.”

Ruth Jones, 75, asks congressman Ted Lieu how changes to health care will affect her at town hall in Stevensons Ranch, Calif. on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2017 Christian Monterrosa/ The Signal

Outside of the elementary school, the dispute had not dwindled.

Many were furious over the 33rd district congressman’s presence in lieu of Knight.

“This is called a town hall and [Lieu] doesn’t represent the people of the 25th district. We have a Republican who represents the 25th district because that’s the way the voters chose,” said Greg Aprahamian, an SCV resident unhappy with Lieu’s presence in the valley. “So they should not call this a ‘town hall’ because it’s a farce.”

Police arrived on the scene but only to diffuse and keep an eye on those who were in heated arguments and shouting matches.

Oana Cioaca Taylor, 45, claimed that her husband, Ulysses, 49, who was also in attendance, had to be taken to the hospital after being hit in the shoulder by another man in the audience but no arrests were made.

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