Monday, Donovan Tann was soft spoken and had a question for Ron Estes, though Estes was never scheduled to be at a meeting at the Newton Public Library.
Tann faced a real decision in his 20s, when as a college student he was on his parents' health insurance and was faced with a serious health issue.
“I had a congenital issue with my my lung, it is not a lifestyle factor or anything. When I had to make a decision, I had to sit in my room, and choose between not getting the surgery and realize that my life was at risk or getting the surgery and eating into my parents' lifetime limits,” Tann said. “I had to choose between my parents' health and my own health. With something like the care act that (Ron) Estes voted for, what should I do in that situation. Do I put my own life at risk?”
Field and Constituent Services Representative Dalton Glasscock did not have answers for Tann, or the other dozen people who showed up at the Newton Public Library Monday afternoon. Glasscock serves as a member of the Constituent Services Team for Rep. Ron Estes (R-Kan.) in Estes' Wichita office.
“I really cannot answer policy questions, I am not as versed in those things because I do the field work,” Glasscock said.
Glasscock said Estes voted in favor of the house plan, but has not issued any statement about the Senate plan — waiting to see if the Senate plan passes the Senate before offering an opinion.
He wasn't dodging, nor was he accused by anyone of dodging, questions during the two hour meeting at the library. His area of expertise, and why the Representative's office announced the meeting at the library, is offering assistance with federal agencies and programs, including, but not limited to: Veterans Affairs, Medicare, Social Security, Internal Revenue Service and immigration issues.
But for two hours, constituents talked with him about a number of issues — health care being the top subject that came up immediately and dominated much of the meeting. Other issues brought forward included global warming, public education, transportation, Amtrak and minimum wage. Glasscock left with more than eight pages of notes he said he would forward to Rep. Estes.
“I think we need to make education and health care the most important issues nationwide,” said Kimberly Moore of Wichita. “They do the most for our society.”
A degree holder in public health, she challenged the congressman's vote on a health care bill passed by the House of Representatives, and questioned if Estes has put forth a position on a Senate bill awaiting a vote. She was concerned about rising costs, the loss of Medicare funding for Kansas, the possible loss of Kansas hospitals and how many Americans would lose health insurance.
She, like Tann, questioned the notion that many of those who would no longer have health insurance would be doing that out of choice, or if it would be simply because without tax credits and governmental oversight they would not be able to afford health insurance plans.
Tann, a college professor, expressed his frustration with both a House health care bill and a Senate health care bill — challenging the proposed charges for preexisting conditions and the idea that people would choose to no longer have insurance.
“If I have a preexisting condition (I may) never get health insurance again,” Tann said “Today I am free to purchase a Ferrari, you can look outside and there are none out there. I am free to make a choice, but I have no meaningful choice.”
Tann also stated he would like to see public hearings on the health care bills in congress right now, which in the case of the Senate bill has not happened.
“It would be easier to answer policy questions if we had open hearings for this,” Tann said. “We have had zero minutes of hearings, while we had thousands of bi-partisan hearings for the Affordable Care Act. I think anything worth its salt is worth looking at. Anything done in secrecy is not democracy.”
At one point a person within the group asked how many there would support universal health care — and every person raised their hands during the meeting.
Several at the meeting asked if the congressman would schedule town hall meetings in the district. Glasscock responded that there had been two, with several thousand attendees. He told the group those were done as telephone town halls.
That did not pass muster with several of the group.
“We want face-to-face town halls,” Moore said. She repeated that several times throughout the meeting.