May 25, 2017
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Updated: Ryan talks issues in telephone ‘town hall’

Some district residents take part


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BY DANIEL GAITAN
dgaitan@kenoshanews.com


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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional comments from Ian Martorana, spokesman for Paul Ryan.

Health care and higher education were issues U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan addressed in a telephone town hall meeting with Kenosha County residents Tuesday.

Ryan, the nation’s third highest-ranking Republican, represents Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, which includes Kenosha County.

Ryan spokesperson Ian Martorana said in a statement that Ryan spoke to thousands of area residents. The Kenosha News was not invited to cover the event and it is not clear how participants were chosen.

Ryan has held no in-person town hall events in Kenosha County this year. His most recent in-person, in-district listening session in Kenosha was in April 2015. It has left Kenoshans unhappy about the dearth of in-district listening sessions.

“He can show up for an award but can't show up for a town hall what a joke,” wrote one Facebook user.

Another user said he wasn’t notified of the telephone town hall, but “I’d have attended.”

On Friday, Martorana provided additional details about the calls, saying in a statment that Ryan’s team will “call households in a given county for a (telephone) town hall regardless of political affiliation to participate

He said if individuals in Wisconsin’s 1st District would like to be on the next telephone town hall, they can call any of Ryan’s offices to express interest and a staff member will take their information.

“The schedule for future town halls is continuing to be worked on,” Martorana said.

Still, Martorana said Ryan’s team has sent more than 51,000 individual responses to constituents in his district.

“Paul is in direct communication with his constituents, touring local businesses, answering questions from students, serving coffee at the Racine Pancake Breakfast recently, and recently holding telephone town hall meetings with thousands of Rock, Walworth—and Kenosha county, as you know—residents,” he said. “He’s also been addressing questions in multiple national and local interviews on television and radio. Constituents can email, write, fax, or call, and they will get the same timely response they always have.”

Martorana sent excerpts of Ryan’s answers to constituents’ questions to the Kenosha News, including:

On health care reform:

— “To restore a viable health insurance market ... (seniors) will get a tax credit based on their age to help them pay for that health insurance. So the bill that we passed has what we call age-adjusted tax credits, and it says: The older you are, the more tax credit you will get. The Senate is adding to that right now to help cover those additional costs that the older person would get for health insurance ... So we are going to give bigger tax credits to older people. Then the second thing we do—which I think is the smartest thing — instead of trying to force young people to pay for stuff they don’t need, we are going to cover the cost of catastrophically ill people.”

— “We did this in Wisconsin before Obamacare. We had a thing called the high risk pool ... The state said: We will cover the excessive cost of health care for people with catastrophic illnesses like heart disease or cancer so that they can buy affordable care. It’s subsidized. They’ve got seven plans to choose from. ... and by covering those people with excessive illnesses, the other insurance pools don’t have to do that, and you lower everybody else’s insurance costs.”

— “And then if you cover catastrophic illnesses like I just described, that is the biggest thing we can do to lower prices and premiums for people and that’s why our bill, we think, will make sure we cover people with pre-existing conditions and get them good, comprehensive care, but do it in such a way that you’re not cranking up everybody else’s health insurance premiums. Then you can actually lower everybody else’s health insurance premiums.”

On higher education:

— “There are two things were trying to do here. Number one, the student loan industry is a big monopoly that was taken over in 2010 and basically it is run by the federal government. The default rates are higher, and there is no competition in the student loan industry. And so, we would like to undo that nationalization of the student loan industry, and let there be more competitive products in the market place to lower costs of loans, people have more choices and get people the ability to have more customized loans that can be customized to their unique situation.”

— “The question on the cost side is: Why is tuition inflation so much higher than ordinary inflation, which is also a question with health care? Health care and education the prices go up so much faster than they do than anything else we buy in society, and one of the things we are trying to figure out and look into is to get more transparency among colleges about where the money goes. It is so easy for colleges to crank up grants and loans and to keep feeding tuition inflation and its putting kids more and more in debt. So, more transparency on colleges, on how much money it costs, and also metrics that say: What do you get for this degree? Do students actually get the careers they want, the jobs and their majors they are studying for?”


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