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VOL. 41 | NO. 12 | Friday, March 24, 2017

Tennessee voters who didn't like health plan still support Trump

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SHELBYVILLE (AP) — In Rep. Scott DesJarlais' district, some residents are cheering the demise of the revised national health care law bitterly opposed by the House Freedom Caucus, of which DesJarlais is a member.

Registered nurse Lauren Collins said she still supports President Donald Trump but was disappointed to see him backing a health plan that made big cuts to Medicaid, the program that provides health insurance for the poor and the disabled.

"I just really thought that he was going to make changes for the positive, and I was surprised to see him wanting to cut funds for that," said Collins, who lives in Shelbyville, a rural city about 60 miles southeast of Nashville that is known for its Tennessee walking horse industry.

For Collins, a hospice nurse who cares for the dying, the proposed Medicaid cuts are personal. Many of her older patients, she says, rely on the program to pay for nursing home care. Also, she has a disabled adult brother on the program.

"He is on a Medicaid waiver that will pay for his adult day care, and I'm scared expenses are going to be cut for the program," she said.

Republicans have been vowing for seven years to repeal the health law passed by then-President Barack Obama. Hard-line conservatives in the Freedom Caucus defied Trump by refusing to support GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan's plan, which they saw as still giving government too much power over health care. Others, including a number of moderate Republicans, worried the proposal would leave millions without health insurance. That split among Republicans in Congress mirrored voters in Tennessee.

Shea Cox, a 21-year-old full-time computer science student, called the health plan Trump supported a "rush job." And he's a Trump supporter.

"Trumpcare looked almost exactly like Obamacare with a couple of things taken out, and I think the biggest problem was that Trump himself wasn't really involved in most of it," Cox said. "It was like Paul Ryan and a couple of other people. It just seemed like a complete hack job, just rushed."

Cox, who describes himself more conservative and libertarian, said his values more closely align with the Freedom Caucus on the issue. Still, he said, it's going to take some time to unravel the current health law.

But some voters can't wait.

Erin Webb, a 39-year-old legal assistant, said she has no health insurance because her job doesn't offer it and she can't afford the plans currently offered on healthcare.gov. The supporter of both Trump and DesJarlais said her husband, who is self-employed, doesn't have insurance, either. Webb blames the current health law for the high cost of coverage she says puts insurance out of reach for them and others.

"Obamacare should be gone," she said.