Republican congressmen held a hearing in Gastonia on Friday on the problems people in North Carolina are having with the Affordable Care Act. But it served as more of a political rally for people who oppose or support Obamacare.
Before the hearing started, a Congressional staff member said no disruptions would be allowed. Then a woman in the audience spoke up.
"Is this a taxpayer funded meeting?" she asked.
"Yes ma'am," the staffer said.
"Why do we not have the ability as taxpayers and these people's employers to comment or ask questions?" the woman asked next.
The staffer and the chair of the committee tried to explain it's a hearing, not a town hall. But the woman got a round of applause when she argued a taxpayer-funded hearing shouldn't be one-sided.
Then the hearing began, and it was one-sided.
"As someone with intimate knowledge of my industry and as an American, I have serious concerns about Obamacare," said Jason Falls, who's in the insurance business in Kings Mountain.
"There are two words that have been pervasive in everyone's concerns: uncertainty and trust, or lack thereof," said Tav Gauss from Wilson.
"And by the way, the name Affordable Health Care Act is just a lie by virtue of the title itself," said Sherry Overbey from Belmont. "It should be called the Unaffordable Health Care Act."
The two other witnesses were also against Obamacare. Here's Joel Long, CEO of a heating and air conditioning company in Gastonia:
"I believe that everything we're seeing from government from a regulatory standpoint, and this, the Affordable Care Act, is dampening our growth every day," he said.
The only members of Congress at the hearing were Republicans – Darrell Issa of California, and Patrick McHenry and Robert Pittenger of North Carolina. Issa said he regretted that no Democrats attended.
Here's an example of the kind of questions the Republicans asked:
"Your prior insurance plan, did you have maternity coverage under that?" Patrick McHenry asked Overbey, a 58-year-old woman. She said no.
"And your new plan requires you to have this?" he asked next. She said yes.
"OK," McHenry said. "Is that somewhat absurd?"
Outside of the hearing, there was an equally partisan crowd for Obamacare.
"Witness denied!" protesters chanted. Several of them asked earlier this week to testify during the hearing but were told no. Dana Wilson from Charlotte was one of them.
"I have had MS since 1996," she said. "I'm 40 years old now. I was 22 then. I need Obamacare. It would help me and countless others."
Wilson said insurance companies have denied her coverage because they call multiple sclerosis a preexisting condition. Starting next year, Obamacare prevents them from doing that.
Congressmen McHenry and Pittenger said they'll talk to people having good experiences, too. But they argued the hearing was representative of what they've heard from their constituents.