Rep. Coffman grilled on Obamacare replacement at town hall, talks VA wait times in interview

Posted at 4:37 PM, Aug 01, 2017

HENDERSON, Colo. – U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman voted against the House Republicans’ latest efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and has been talking about bipartisanship in crafting a health care solution for months, yet health care was still the prime topic of discussion at Tuesday’s town hall meeting at Prairie View High School.

Hundreds of his constituents from Colorado’s 6th Congressional District packed into the high school in Coffman’s first town hall meeting since April. Watch the town hall meeting in the player embedded below or by clicking here.

He said that the partisanship in Congress has grown out of districts that have been drawn to be either heavily blue or heavily red, and hinted that he and others in Congress were talking about challenging the way districts are drawn up.

Coffman touched on the border wall, saying he supports the effort despite working closely with some undocumented immigrants in recent months facing deportation. He also said it would be a “disaster” if President Trump were to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the ongoing investigation into Russia’s tampering with last year’s election, and if any Trump campaign members colluded with the foreign state.

But most of the questions people posed to him were about the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which Coffman maintained should be repealed. But he maintained, as he has, that people with pre-existing coverage should be covered under any replacement, and continued to express concerns over reduced funding to Medicaid that some of his Republican colleagues have sought or voted for.

He’s already put forward a plan to try and separate some of the Republicans’ health care efforts in order to break Medicaid discussions off from the tax cuts for wealthy Americans that the Republicans’ bills in both the Senate and House contained.

Denver7 talked with Coffman, a Colorado Republican, Tuesday ahead of the town hall.

He focused on the VA wait times and other veteran-related issues in the interview—something he’s had a keen interest in and has been an active participant in when committees have crafted legislation over the past several months.

Wait times for a primary care appointment at the Denver VA are some of the worst in the country; people are waiting an average of 18 days to get care. That's four times higher than the national average, reports the Associated Press.

"I'm very disappointed in wait times,” Coffman told Denver7.

"Can you say with certainty things will get better, or are you a bit leery?” asked Denver7 reporter Marc Stewart.   

“Oh I'm leery," he said.

Coffman says he's been told by VA Secretary David Shulkin that the new facility in Aurora, along with incentives to beef up staffing, will help—but he said Tuesday he's not convinced.

"I'm certainty want to believe the secretary, but it's kind of trust-by-verify," Coffman said.

Coffman is putting weight in the new Choice Act, which allows veterans to seek private care in the event of excessive waits.

He will soon be meeting with a regional VA director.

"We've got to get the VA to work better, and as part of the VA working better, choice has to work better."

On the topic of affordable health care, Coffman went against his party, voting not to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with the House’s American Health Care Act amid concerns over coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

"Do you feel your constituents are better off now this has failed?” asked Stewart.

“No, they're not,” Coffman said. “We have to get something done, because the fact is the Affordable Care Act isn't working as promised."

And as he’s done for months now, Coffman again called for a bipartisan solution.

“[It’s] better to say we're going to get this done. It's not to going to be overnight, and let's reach out and wherever we can, let's do it on a bi-partisan basis.”

Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.