A seriously ill young woman who held her own grilling an Arkansas senator over the Affordable Care Act at a raucous town hall meeting deep in a red state has been rewarded with a jump in donations on her internet funding site.
Kati McFarland, 25, a dual-degree student in violin performance and business at the University of Arkansas, told Republican Sen. Tom Cotton on Wednesday night that without coverage through the Affordable Care Act for a preexisting genetic condition, “I will die. That is not hyperbole. I will die.”
That started a string of questions by McFarland as she repeatedly demanded answers about the future of the health care system, triggering wild jeers and boos for the senator from the crowd of 2,000 in Springdale as Cotton continually dodged specifics on how he could ensure she would not lose health coverage.
“We are historically a Republican family. We are farming family. We are an NRA family,” explained McFarland from her wheelchair before she again stressed her desperate need for health care.
“You want to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, which does my cancer screening,” she said. “You and your party talk a lot about repeal of the ACA, but you don’t talk much about what you will replace it with. What are you going to replace it with?”
One viewer of the video of the town hall meeting posted by the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette remarked: “Tom Cotton doesn’t care if you die. He and his family have good health coverage.” Another responded: “And we all pay for it ... Special coverage for the privileged class. Even Trump & EVERY single member of his family has it.”
Cotton repeated complaints about the Affordable Care Act — which drew boos — and assured McFarland that she would still have access to health care, but he offered no details.
“He just seemed to repeat my own question back at me,” McFarland told MSNBC later. “He kept saying, ‘If you lose your coverage today, you can still have it.’ He made no promises as to what would happen in the future, once he votes for the repeal he keeps promising.”
McFarland launched a funding appeal four months ago on the internet to raise money for her various health needs, including for insurance payments and a new wheelchair. Donations increased tenfold to over $11,000 after her town hall face-off. Most donors mentioned her showdown with Cotton.
One contributor wrote: “Thank you, Kati McFarland, for your bravery of making your personal life & struggle so public and for speaking your truth & the truth of millions of American lives damaged and cut short by the greed and heartlessness of this Republican Congress & Presidency, due to their inhumane opposition to health care being a human right.”
“Ozark Indivisible” — an organization of local activists that is part of a broader national movement — posted information about her funding site following the town hall meeting.
McFarland suffers from the incurable Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which causes several medical complications, including dizziness, heart weakness and difficulty moving due to inflammatory arthritis. She turns 26 on Sunday, which means she is no longer eligible to be on her late parents’ health insurance policy, and will have to switch to Obamacare.
The GOP has been rocked recently by wild town hall meetings with hugely vocal critics complaining about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and environmental protections, among many other issues. Politicians are beginning to duck out of appearances, triggering even more ire from angry constituents.
CORRECTION: This article previously misstated the name of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as the “Post-Gazette.”