Rep. Ryan talks health care, Comey, in Walworth County tour

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Frank Schultz
Friday, May 12, 2017

LAKE GENEVA/DELAVAN—Rep. Paul Ryan told high school students Friday that he likes solving people's problems.

But when asked about some of his constituents who might end up without health insurance under the health care reform bill he backs, he turned the conversation to the country's current health care system.

“We've got to rescue people from the collapse of this health care law,” he said.

The purpose of the Republican bill “is so people can get health care,” Ryan said before pivoting to the failings of the current system, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated 24 million people eventually could lose health insurance under the original House Republican plan.

No one knows if modifications made to that plan will change that number, and no one knows what the Senate will do with the House-passed bill.

But health care was on the mind of demonstrators who held signs and chanted in front of Badger High school in Lake Geneva and Prestige Paints in Delavan, Ryan's two stops Friday afternoon.

Former teacher Steve Doelder pointed to projections of people losing health coverage and what he sees as tax breaks for the wealthy under the House plan.

“They're for wealth care, not health care,” Doelder said.

Ryan pointed to the threat by a health insurer to pull out of Iowa, which could leave tens of thousands of individual health policy consumers with no insurance, according to USA Today.

Medica, a Minnesota-based health insurer, recently suggested it would not sell individual policies in Iowa in 2018 because of instability in the market.

Other providers around the country have pulled out of the individual market as well, and Ryan says a third of United States counties have only one health insurer.

Ryan said some people are seeing double-digit premium increases and said the new bill would lower premiums.

But an analysis by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that some Obamacare enrollees in Wisconsin—including Ryan's 1st District—would pay increased premiums under the Republican plan, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“The purpose of our health care bill is to make sure that people can get affordable health care coverage, including people with pre-existing conditions, and that means don't have a one-size-fits-all, costly program that's collapsing like Obamacare,” Ryan said.

Refundable tax credits with health savings accounts and well-funded risk pools are the secrets to a viable system, Ryan said.

Ryan did not respond when asked if that meant everyone would get health insurance.

In a short press conference after his tour in Delavan, Ryan was asked:

-- About what some consider a threat by President Donald Trump, directed at former FBI Director James Comey in a tweet Friday, among several Comey questions.

“I'm not going to comment on the tweet of the day or of the hour,” Ryan said.

Ryan repeated his previous statements, including that it was the president's right to fire Comey.

Ryan dismissed a further question on the subject, saying: “I'm focusing on what is in my control, and that is, what is Congress doing to fix people's problems. I'm working on health care reform. I'm working on tax reform. Those are the things that I got elected to do. Those are the things that are within our purview in Congress. So I'm working on actually making good on our promises and fix people's problems.”

-- About Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, holding a town hall meeting in Kenosha—in Ryan's district—Friday: “I don't have a response on that. I don't really have a feeling about it one way or another.”

-- If he would hold town hall meetings with constituents. Ryan pointed to his recent telephone town hall—the only town hall he has held since the last election—saying it's better than the in-person meetings he has held for years.

The telephone meetings ensure he can talk to constituents only and not “people coming in from out of state.”

Ryan said his interviews at businesses, in-district office hours and phone meetings where people are invited using lists of constituents all ensure he's hearing from constituents.

“I want to make sure my constituents don't … walk into a harassing environment. I want to be able to interact with constituents in a way that they feel comfortable as well. That is why I'm doing all these other things you can do, to interact with the people who hired me.”

About 30 protesters walked the sidewalk outside Badger High. A smaller group showed up in Delavan, where Ryan toured Prestige Paints.

Also Friday, Ryan:

-- Said he has been talking to local banks that tell him they can't make the loans they want to make because of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.

-- Answered a question by a Badger High student about the competing needs for liberty and security. Ryan talked about the need for security from terrorists but said liberty is more important, “Because if you lose a liberty, you may never get it back.”

-- Told Delavan-Darien and Bigfoot high school students that he likes learning, and he's enjoying his expanded role as speaker, especially in the military and foreign-policy areas.

“You can pick up the phone and talk to just about anybody on the planet you want to,” he said.

-- Did not talk to protesters, including Donna Palmer of Delavan, a retired teacher who said she wants to see the Ryan who would not accept candidate Donald Trump at a Republican gathering at the Walworth County Fairgrounds last October.

“As speaker of the House, he has the responsibility to move the moral compass of this country,” Palmer said.

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