Republican who helped pass health overhaul meeting voters

A New Jersey Republican who played a key role in helping the GOP-led U.S. House pass an Affordable Care Act replacement bill will meet with voters Wednesday in his first town hall since the bill passed.

Rep. Tom MacArthur's event in heavily Democratic Willingboro comes as Democrats target MacArthur ahead of 2018 elections.

MacArthur was one of only two Republicans among five from the state to back the House legislation that would dismantle Democratic former President Barack Obama's signature law. The Republican-led Senate is expected to author its own version.

He played a leading role in helping the measure gain enough support from conservative colleagues by authoring an amendment that allows states to get federal waivers to the requirement that insurers charge healthy and sick customers the same premiums. The change would only be for people who let their coverage lapse.

"I'm acting as an individual trying to solve a problem," MacArthur said last month about his work on the measure. "That's what I came here to do."

Among other changes in the bill that the Congressional Budget Office had estimated would result in 24 million fewer people having health insurance by 2026 are the elimination of tax penalties under Obama's law. The bill also erases tax increases in the Affordable Care Act on higher-earning people and the health industry. It cuts the Medicaid program for low-income people and lets states impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients.

New Jersey was one of several dozen states that opted to expand Medicaid under the ACA. Republican Gov. Chris Christie's administration estimates that about 500,000 residents have gained coverage under the Medicaid expansion, which the governor has touted as part of his efforts to fight the state's opioid addiction epidemic.

New Jersey also has about 288,000 people in the ACA's individual marketplace, according to federal data.

MacArthur has been under pressure from his political opponents in the southern New Jersey district not to strip away the ACA's benefits. Liberal leaning groups, like New Jersey Citizen Action, have been organizing weekly anti-repeal protests at his district office.

The town went heavily for Democrat Hillary Clinton over Republican Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, by about 14,000 to 1,300 votes. MacArthur fared slightly better in the town

A potential Democratic challenger, Andrew Kim, who served as an Obama White House national security adviser, has said he's now more likely to challenge MacArthur next year. Kim said he raised more than $43,000 online over the last week for a possible run.

"We have an opportunity to take down the person who was the author of Trumpcare 2.0," Kim said. "He owns every part of this."



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