AURORA | Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman yesterday announced plans to hold a series of meetings next week and next month — but none face-to-face with the public — to gauge the concerns of constituents and healthcare professionals related to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
During the first part of what Coffman deemed a “listening tour” in a statement released Feb. 13, he will hold meetings with healthcare providers and patient advocacy groups Feb. 20-24 at clinics and other locations in his 6th Congressional District, which encompasses much of Aurora.
“During this district work week, I look forward to meeting with many healthcare providers and patients advocacy groups,” Coffman said in a statement. “My objective is to personally hear from them on how the ACA has affected the healthcare system, medical professionals and, most importantly, how it has affected patients access to medical care. I will use their input not only to review my own plans on how to proceed, but also to communicate their concerns to my congressional colleagues. Additionally, I want to communicate again that no repeal will take place without first having a replacement.”
Coffman’s plans do not include in-person public meetings with constituents. Coffman and other congressional Republicans have been recently criticized for dodging or precluding public meetings with constituents after a bevy of dust-ups across the country. Republicans say critical turnout at the meetings are political ploys. Others say they’re worrisome episodes of elected officials hiding from constituents.
Coffman’s staff said “several” telephone town halls with constituents could allow for comment on health care legislation. Details on the virtual meetings will be made available on Coffman’s website in early March, according to the statement.
“The tele(phone) town halls allow us to reach a greater audience and allow people to ask questions of the congressman,” Coffman Spokesman Daniel Bucheli said.
Bucheli said the congressman will hold a minimum of two phone conversations in March, although more could be added depending on next month’s congressional vote calendar, which has yet to be released.
Tyler Law, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, issued a statement Tuesday morning condemning Coffman’s “smoke-and-mirrors press release.”
“(Coffman) has already been feeling the local backlash for voting to rip healthcare away from millions without having a viable replacement plan that maintains coverage for everyone that has it, lowers costs, and protects people with preexisting conditions,” Law said. “Coffman’s shameful decisions to hide from his constituents is not going to silence their voices.”
In his statement, Coffman echoed pervasive Republican views on the ACA, citing a spike in health insurance rates, cancelled policies and fewer service providers. He has championed the provisions of the ACA that protect individuals with pre-existing medical conditions and provide expanded access to healthcare for those with Medicaid coverage.
Coffman was one of several Republican Congressmen who faced criticism for evading questions from constituents regarding the Affordable Care Act earlier this year. He faced particular heat for leaving a constituent event at the central branch of the Aurora Public Library in January before many people had a chance to speak with him. At the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Marade a few days later, Coffman said he was planning on holding an additional town hall at a venue that could hold as many as 300 people, according to a video posted by The Colorado Independent. Bucheli said plans for such an event are “still in the works.”
Bucheli said both Coffman’s Washington D.C. office and his district office in Aurora have seen an uptick in the amount of correspondence — in the form of phone calls, emails and letters — received in the first part of this year over the same time period last year.
The two offices have handled a combined 12,000 pieces of mail so far this year, according to Bucheli. He said during the same time last year the two offices received about 1,600 pieces of mail.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated where Rep. Mike Coffman held a constituent event in January. It was held at the central branch of the Aurora Public Library.