Kelly dodges straight answer at Mercyhurst forum

Last Thursday, Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa, spoke at Mercyhurst College as a guest of the Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics and its Public Affairs Forum. The event was advertised as a town hall meeting “exclusive to the college community.”

While I commend Mercyhurst for providing the opportunity to hear Kelly speak, I could only laugh as I read the criteria necessary to attend.

Soon after Kelly was sworn into office, he spoke to constituents at a town hall meeting at the Blasco Library in Erie. Unfortunately, I could not attend because a sudden snowstorm made venturing out near impossible.
Since that meeting on a cold, blustery morning in mid-February, Kelly’s local presence has been slim. But eight months after his first open forum in Erie, Kelly returned to speak at a (let’s face it) closed-door, invite-only, ID-checked-at-the-door meeting.

Thankfully, I am a graduate student with the necessary identification that made bypassing security a breeze.
Kelly began with a PowerPoint outlining what he thought were the major flaws in the current administration. Kelly was sure to emphasize the current deficit and even provided a terrifying graph of what we, as young, bright citizens, will eventually inherit if we don’t vote the Democrats out of office: an 800 percent increase in national debt.

Thank you, Congressman, for beginning your “meeting” on such a positive note. Since I have seen these Republican scare tactics too many times before, I sat patiently in the second row waiting for the opportunity to ask
Kelly a question.

Kelly began the question-and-answer session with cheerful comments stressing his empathetic spirit and if students were prepared to ask a question, he would be more than happy to answer.

I chose to ask Kelly a question that applied not only to me, but to all the students in the room. I described life as a college graduate, unable to find a job in my field, waitressing and applying daily for jobs all over the country. Because of former Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, I was able stay on my parents’ health insurance during this transitional time. Dahlkemper was responsible for the article within the Affordable Care Act stating that dependents under 26 can remain on their parents’ health insurance plan.

I asked Kelly why, in his effort to repeal “Obamacare” as he so in-eloquently and immaturely called it, would he want to take this opportunity away from my fellow students who could be in the same position next spring as I was this past year?

Kelly shot back by saying that he was not in Washington during health care reform. Had he misunderstood my question? I quickly clarified that I was referring to the current effort by Congressional Republicans to repeal health care reform. That was the last clarification I could add.

Kelly continued on a seemingly endless pre-approved speech about how health care reform may look good on the surface, but there’s nothing there. Really? There’s nothing there? Because I recently went to the emergency room and if I remember correctly, the hospital accepted my insurance card.

Twice during Kelly’s response I tried to clarify my question to get a straight answer. How naïve of me. Kelly would not answer my question. And why, fellow Mercyhurst students, do you think that is? Because the current Republican agenda is to repeal health care reform, taking with it our opportunity to remain on our parents’ health insurance
while we navigate the job market.

Not surprisingly, Kelly would not tell a group of students that he wants to repeal what may be our only option for affordable health care next year. Instead, he could only lambast the current administration and try to shock us with outrageously inflated statistics.

When I graduate next year, I’ll be 26 and will no longer qualify to stay on my parents’ health insurance plan. But to the hundreds of Mercyhurst students under 26 who graduate next year, wouldn’t you like to know who’s trying to take away your opportunity for coverage?