‘Democracy in action’: Packed house welcomes LaMalfa to Grass Valley town hall forum | TheUnion.com

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‘Democracy in action’: Packed house welcomes LaMalfa to Grass Valley town hall forum

Nevada County constituents who have for weeks clamored for a conversation with their congressman, gave Rep. Doug LaMalfa an earful Saturday afternoon.

And the congressman welcomed it, even extending his town hall forum an extra half hour at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, where long lines stretch outside to enter and inside to ask questions or offer comments.

But there wasn't much waiting in knowing what topics would dominate the discussion.

Though LaMalfa, R-Richvale, offered a laundry list recently drawing his attention — the Oroville Dam, flood control, water storage, forest management, transportation, and infrastructure — his audience was focused on healthcare, climate change and immigration.

Healthcare

An Oroville man said that without Obamacare, he'd likely not be alive today without treatments he received for esophageal cancer.

"Trumpcare or Ryancare … seems to favor the rich with tax breaks," he said, "while kicking people off healthcare who really need it."

A Nevada County woman stood at the microphone "alive today due to the Affordable Care Act," which kept her from bankruptcy by covering $200,000 in treatment for a progressive breast cancer.

"Now I'm cancer free and I owe it directly to the ACA," she said.

And a local doctor asked the congressman, "What exactly is your opposition?" to a single-payer health-care system.

LaMalfa said examples he's seen of government-run programs keeps him from supporting single-payer.

"I do not think it's wise to entrust this, or any, government with the entirety of our health care system," he said.

Jeff Kane, a longtime local physician, said overhead costs for Medicare were much lower — 4 to 5 percent — than the insurance industry —30-40 percent.

"That means we're paying 30 cents (on the dollar) not for healthcare, but for corporate profits, advertising and the obscene executive compensation we've seen."

LaMalfa said reduced reimbursements for MediCal and Medicare is already resulting in fewer physicians willing to see them.

"More and more doctors will not take those patients, because they can only do so much of charitable work," he said.

LaMalfa said the Affordable Care Act was collapsing on itself, with premiums climbing across the country by an average of 25 percent.

"If we want to have a system that's going to work," he said, "we've got to have a change in direction."

"Sing-le pay-er! … Sing-le pay-er! … Sing-le pay-er!" the crowd shouted in response.

Audience members also said the current plan before Congress, the American Health Care Act of 2017 — which the crowd referenced with chants of "24 million! 24 million! 24 million! — was in trouble due to lack of support from LaMalfa's Republican colleagues. LaMalfa told those holiding a sea of green "Agree" placards, the GOP Senate opposition wasn't due to the number who would lose health insurance.

"Those signs would come down if you heard why," he said. "They don't think it goes far enough, fast enough."

Climate change

Don Baldwin asked LaMalfa if he agrees with the 140 members of the Nevada County Climate Change Coalition who believe global warming and climate change is the No. 1 issue of our times — and should be considered a threat to national security.

LaMalfa asked Baldwin for an example of an action the congressman could take.

"Well, first of all, don't cut the Environmental Protection Agency," he said, drawing an ovation from the audience.

"I mean actual things," LaMalfa said. "What things?"

Baldwin suggested placing a carbon tax on coal-fired power plants, supporting current and future emissions standards for all states — including the military, which he said has among the largest carbon footprints of any agency in the world.

"Nobody likes coal … I get it. We get it," LaMalfa said, also noting natural gas as plentiful source of energy. He then shifted the talk to biomass, an energy source he said could emerge as an economic boost in western Nevada County, while also addressing the danger of catastrophic fire in area forests.

"That's a renewable energy," he said. "And that would be jobs for people right here in our backyard. I see biomass as a huge win for us."

Immigration

Among the discussion and comments shared on immigration, including the economic impact of President Donald Trump's executive order banning travel to the U.S. for specific countries, a young boy asked the congressman why the United States should spend money on a wall instead of helping schools and providing health care.

"We have to do many things at one time," LaMalfa said, adding that illegal immigration costs "millions of dollars a year."

"Did you lock your home when you left," LaMalfa asked the crowd, which responded with laughter as several rural residents shouted "No!"

"Nevada County says don't control the border?" he said. "If you don't have border control, you really don't have anything."

Contact Editor Brian Hamilton at bhamilton@theunion.com or 530-477-4249.