Half the population of small Kansas town shows up to GOP senator's health care town hall


Even in a town of fewer than 300 people, Sen. Jerry Moran faced an overflowing audience at his recent health care town hall.

Republican Sen. Jerry Moran likely didn't expect a big audience at his recent health care town hall in Palco, Kansas.

After all, the estimated 2016 population of this small city was only 278.

Yet the Kansas City Star reported that roughly 150 people — nearly half of the entire town — showed up to Moran's event at the McKenna Youth and Activity Center, a building meant to hold only 65.

The outsize response was enough to garner front page coverage in other local papers, as well:

The Star notes that Moran, despite having voted in the past to repeal the Affordable Care Act, is a swing vote on the GOP's health care repeal bill, which he warns "would harm rural hospitals and endanger [Kansas'] elderly and disabled populations" through draconian cuts to Medicaid.

"The Senate bill would cost 120,000 Kansans ... their health coverage in five years, according to an analysis by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation," the paper reports.

Health care advocates from suburbs hours away from Palco, as well as national and international media, showed up to the town hall.

But it was the residents of Palco who urged Moran, someone many of them know on a personal level, to continue his opposition to the repeal bill as it is currently designed.

Bob Cox, a 73-year-old former pediatrician who had treated Moran's family, noted that, unlike the response to "external" threats, "we don’t really look at the internal threat from injury and disease and fund it the same way."

Jeff Zamrzla, a veteran, asked Moran why Congress refuses to consider "Medicare for all," while others expressed concerns about the bill's impact on already struggling rural hospitals and doctors, all in service of tax cuts for the wealthy.

As Republicans across the country continue to face strong resistance from their constituents — when the lawmakers deign to speak with them at all — it will get more and more difficult to simply ignore  the people they represent.

When a tiny town like Palco still manages to pack the room to twice its capacity in order to tell their senator just how much they dislike the GOP's plan, the message is loud and clear.