In town hall, Joni Ernst gets an earful from constituents scared about health care

Ernst was grilled by a constituent who cited his diabetes for his health care concerns.
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HARLAN, Iowa (CNN) — In a tense exchange during a town hall meeting, 54-year-old Craig Gill told GOP Sen. Joni Ernst that he had been living with Type 1 diabetes since he was seven and he feared that he would no longer be able to afford insulin if Republicans move forward to replace the Affordable Care Act with legislation that loosens protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

“You’re worried about how much somebody’s premium is, what about how much it is going to cost me to live?” Gill, who lives in nearby Council Bluffs, asked Ernst. “Because they take the ability for me to get my insulin away, and my other medications. I’m blind in one eye because of my diabetes because I didn’t take care of myself for a while when I was younger. I take care of myself now. I tried to take and use an insulin pump. It didn’t work. But I take shots. I take multiple shots a day. I go through six bottles of FAK and insulin a day, and three bottles of long acting insulin a month. We’re talking $3,000-$4,000 a month worth of insulin. And you want to take that away from us. Why?”

Ernst interjected “No, I do not want to take that away from you, sir, don’t put words in my mouth, first. I don’t want to do that.”

After a back-and-forth over whether Obamacare-controlled insulin costs, Ernst said Republicans needed to find a way to control the cost of life-saving drugs.

“We have to go back and we have to figure out a way with the pharmaceutical companies to control those costs and make sure that you have what’s available to you,” Ernst said.

“Why don’t you make that part of what they’re doing, today?” Gill asked.

Ernst told the audience that “if we can, that’s a great plan.”

But Ernst warned that the Senate’s rules could inhibit Republicans’ ability to make those changes. Under reconciliation — the process the Senate is using to replace Obamacare with just 51 votes — Republicans cannot make any changes to health care that don’t have a direct impact on the budget.

“The Senate rules through reconciliation will only allow us to do so much,” Ernst said.

A man yelled at Ernst to “reach across the aisle.”

There were about 150 people in attendance at the meeting, officials estimated.

Back in Washington, Republicans plan to replace Obamacare has stalled because of intra-party disagreements. Lawmakers are expected to pick back up on the health care negotiations this week after returning from recess, but it’s unclear whether differences between moderates and conservatives can be mended.