POTTSVILLE — A critical, skeptical crowd met today at a town hall meeting with a freshman Pennsylvania congressman about the federal health care law in the wake of an uproar over its website woes and insurers discontinuing plans that don’t meet the law’s standards.
Several brought insurance company papers telling them that their policy was being canceled on Jan. 1.
Some grumbled while the representative, Democrat Matt Cartwright, sought to address criticism of the law and warn that the cost of covering the uninsured was sinking community hospitals in his district, which includes northeastern Pennsylvania’s biggest cities and some of its fading anthracite coal towns, including Pottsville.
But he also acknowledged that President Barack Obama should not have said that the law would allow everybody to keep their health insurance plan if they wanted to keep it.
“He shouldn’t have said that,” Cartwright said, as some of the approximately 100 attendees seated in the Sovereign Majestic Theater salted in their own criticism.
“It’s a lie,” several called out.
Cartwright started again, “What he should have said ...” before attendee Lola Smith interrupted him.
“It doesn’t matter what he should have said,” she finished.
Several others brought questions about how someone newly unemployed might get help from the law, or what they will do if they have an accident and need hospital care before coverage under individual plans in the new marketplaces takes effect Jan. 1.
Cartwright is a supporter of the law, even though he was not in office for its 2010 enactment. But a backlash over the law helped drive Democrats from office and Republicans into the House majority.
Republicans are hoping the law will prove unpopular and deliver them a decisive victory in next year’s midterm elections. Democrats hope it’ll deliver on its promise of nearly universal health insurance and endear voters to them.
Schuylkill County, where Pottsville is the county seat, has high unemployment, at 8.9 percent in August, and its voter registration leans Republican. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney beat Obama, 56 percent to 43 percent.