By Caleb Bedillion
TUPELO – U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly met Thursday with a small group of constituents to hear concerns over efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Kelly, a Republican congressman, privately met at his Tupelo field office with approximately 15 residents of Columbus, Oxford and Tupelo.
The Daily Journal was not allowed to observe this meeting.
Alex Pieschel, of Columbus, had requested the hearing with Kelly so that local supporters of the ACA, often called Obamacare, could voice their opinions.
“We basically just wanted to ask questions about what was going on. Why is there a repeal process?” said Pieschel. “Why wouldn’t you go straight to replacing it with another plan if there are all these problems? Or just amend the law?”
Meeting participants said they did not feel Kelly adequately answered their questions. Calling themselves a loose grassroots network of policy watchers, most said the ACA was a good first step toward reforming U.S. healthcare, but said some additional reform measures are needed.
After the meeting concluded, Kelly would not take any questions from the Daily Journal.
“It’s always good to meet with constituents and hear their concerns,” said Kelly in a brief remark, adding that he will “represent the people of this district.”
In response to written questions directed to his office, the congressman later released a longer statement.
“I am supportive of policies that will advance greater choice and portability of health insurance to the patient while improving the health care delivery structure and reining in out-of-control costs and skyrocketing premiums,” said Kelly’s statement, in part.
However, Kelly did not answer any of the questions directed to him by the Daily Journal.
Specifically, the congressman would not say if he would vote for ACA repeal without an alternate plan in view.
He also would not say whether he wants to maintain ACA regulations designed to make sure individuals with pre-existing conditions can obtain insurance.
The congressman also would not say if he currently supports any particular ACA alternative currently in circulation.
Since November’s federal elections ensured Republican control of the presidency and of Congress, the GOP has thus far failed to publicly cohere around any single strategy by which to roll back the ACA.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has pledged that Congress will repeal the ACA and replace it simultaneously.
However, no single replacement plan appears to have yet gained broad support across Republican ranks.
During his first campaign for office in a 2015 special election, Kelly criticized the ACA as too overreaching and expressed fears that the law’s regulations were forcing small businesses to curtail hiring.
However, Kelly did indicate at the time that he supported retaining certain ACA provisions, such as regulations that require insurance companies to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions.