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Van Buren gathering grills Womack on health care

VAN BUREN -- U.S. Rep. Steve Womack communed with some and sparred with others Wednesday at a meeting where people weren't shy to share their feelings on issues such as health care, immigration and entitlements.

Womack, the Republican representing Arkansas' 3rd Congressional District, held the third of four back-to-back meetings before about 80 people at the Van Buren Fine Arts Center. The first two were Monday in Russellville and Tuesday in Harrison. The last is tonight in Bentonville.

Several people in the crowd defended the Affordable Care Act and pleaded with Womack not to support its repeal. They said the law should retain parents' ability to keep their children on their insurance policies until age 26 and coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Fort Smith business owner Susan Tucker said none of her employees were able to afford health insurance until Obamacare passed. Now, she said, all the employees are insured. She asked Womack to keep what is good about the program.

Drawing jeers from some in the crowd, Womack said the Affordable Care Act as it is is not affordable and quickly will become too expensive for people to keep. Measures have to be taken to reduce premium and health care costs.

"We will not cut Obamacare off at the knees and leave people hanging," he said.

He said people should be allowed to tailor their coverage, which would bring down the cost of insurance by not including coverage for benefits they don't need. He also said refund tax credits would provide money for people to pay for their insurance.

Womack said he believed Congress will not address immigration reform until the border is secure. He said he didn't believe a wall, as President Donald Trump proposes, is necessary completely across the border. Drones and additional immigration officers could guard the border in places where the terrain is the barrier.

Some in the audience laughed when Womack said he didn't understand John Faught's question whether he supported Trump's ban on Muslims.

Womack told Faught that Indonesia has the highest Muslim population in the world but is not on Trump's list of countries banning travel to the United States.

He said the ban was not about Muslims but stopping a pipeline of people entering the country who could radicalize Americans, which he said was a clear and present danger to national security.

Metro on 04/13/2017

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