Time for Town Halls on Health Care 

A group of local Democrats, acting on the premise that several key elected officials representing this area have been less than accessible to constituents wanting to express themselves on pending health-care legislation, have scheduled their own "town hall" meeting on the matter for this Saturday, July 8th, at the IBEW Meeting Hall on Madison.

It remains to be seen how much of a turnout this event will generate beyond the party cadres who organized it, although the city and its environs certainly contain a fair number of health-care activists, as well as a considerable complex of medical-related sites, and, needless to say, as a poverty capital of sorts, a largish number of individuals whose need for medical care is both acute and problematic.

GREG CRAVENS
  • Greg Cravens

Local Republicans may either ignore the event or dismiss it as a political stunt, which, in some measure, it may very well be. But that does not diminish the need for such public ventings of the health-care issue, especially since the three elected officials pinpointed by organizers of Saturday's event — Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and 8th District congressman David Kustoff — have indeed not been as forthcoming to their constituents as they might be, though all have, to some degree, posted official statements on the matter.

Unfortunately, these tend to reflect standard Republican talking points against the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") rather than involving direct interactions with members of the public, many of whom depend on the ACA and fear its extinction. To the extent that statements by the three officials have been part of an actual discussion, they belong to the rote responses and the dueling positions of a highly partisan Capitol Hill.

To be sure, any effort to discuss the health-care issue in a genuinely open public meeting risks being caught in a crossfire of conflicting accusations and demands. We have all seen clips of such meetings held elsewhere. So far there have been none locally, beyond a three-hour no-holds-barred town meeting in the cavernous East High School auditorium held earlier this year by Memphis' Democratic congressman Steve Cohen. As it happened, discord was not a feature of that jam-packed affair, though Cohen has certainly been willing to take his risks and, as may be, his lumps — which was the case in 2009 when a Tea Party crowd challenged him for his support of the Affordable Care Act at a boisterous meeting at the Bridges building downtown.

Now, with repeal-and-replace efforts underway in Congress but with the issue still hanging fire, it is the turn of ACA's opponents — including Corker, Alexander, and Kustoff — to put themselves on the line and take their chances in free and open public assemblies. We earnestly hope that current efforts by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to ram through a hastily concocted version of TrumpCare will continue to fail, giving our elected officials a chance to do so in the forthcoming August recess.

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