Congresswoman Brownley Holds Rowdy Town Hall on Health Care

By Debra Tash

Congresswoman Julia Brownley

Congresswoman Julia Brownley held what she promised to be the first in a series of town halls on the health care debate.  Center stage was former President Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act.  In her opening remarks the congresswoman welcomed the packed crowd in the Camarillo Library’s community room.

Ms. Brownley conceded that the ACA, also known as Obamacare, could use some improvement.  She contended that it has saved lives, even though some may find it a little too expensive.  She quoted President Trump on replacing the health care law, saying, “Believe me, we’re going to unleash something great.” The statement garnered laughs.  She chided her Republican colleagues for their “repeal and replace” mantra and that they have nothing more than wing and prayer plans.  She claims they are trotting out the same old ideas of medical savings accounts, buying across state lines and forming high risk pools, all of which she insisted have or will fail.

The congresswoman believes the law has granted greater access not less.  And that doing away with the ACA will lead to an attack on abortion rights and only benefit the wealthy. Brownley commended what she perceived to be public pressure as having gotten some Republicans to take a step back from scraping the current health care law.

Abbi Coursolle

Ms. Brownley then introduced the first of five speakers, Abbi Coursolle, who is a staff attorney for the National Health Law Program. They state on their website they secure health rights for those in need.  Ms. Coursolle said that her first job as an attorney was suing counties that didn’t provide enough health care services to their most needy residents.  She successful sued the county of Fresno, one of the most cash strapped in the state, and got them to cover $1200 per month treatments for someone suffering from epilepsy.

She saw expanded options and coverage for Medicaid/Medical in 2012, including much more preventive care.  She also poked at the Republican proposals and said that essential benefits would be rolled back.

Next up was Barry Zimmerman, Director of the Ventura County Human Services Agency.  California, like a few other states, expanded low income coverage under Obamacare by offering Medical (the state’s form of Medicaid) to those who earned 138% above the property line for a family, 130% above for individuals.  Now Ventura County, which has a population of 840,000, has 226,450 residents on Medical, 100,000 of those are children.  This puts Ventura even with the state average ratio of 1 to 3 residents on taxpayer funded health care. 15,000 in our county residents who are over 65 are duel enrolled in Medicare and Medical. It is of note that the physicians in the audience were from the Ventura County Memorial Hospital, which is a taxpayer subsidized facility, and were in support of continuing the ACA.

Last of the panel to speak was Nancy Gomez, Organizing Director from Health Access California.  She gave an emotion wrought testimony about her own health coverage and the loophole in the ACA which caused to her shell out additional funds for her two back surgeries because the anesthesiologist assisting in the operations was out of her network.  She urged the audience to be activists to “slow this train wreck,” train wreck meaning the dismantling of Obamacare.

Two additional speakers, Deborah Madden and Shannon Lozano, were gleaned from the National Law Program’s Share Your Stories on their website.  The women gave personal testimony on how the ACA has helped their family members with health issues.

Congresswoman Julia Brownley

Brownley answered some written questions culled from those submitted by audience members – like, What are you doing to convert your GOP members and help them see the light?

When the congresswoman opened the floor to questions things got very lively.  There were cheers when a “single payer” system was suggested by an audience member.  A measure supporting it is wending its way through our legislature now, Single-Payer Health Care Bill Proposed In California

Deborah Baber, wearing a Trump sweatshirt, asked Brownley when was she going to sit down with those who hold an opposing viewpoint to discuss the issue?  Audience members hissed, some booed, others, like the gentleman seat next to me, demanded they let her speak.  The congresswoman contented that town halls like this one presented the other side an opportunity to speak.  Afterward some people came up to talk to Ms. Baber, and though they didn’t agree with her they respected her right to voice her opinion. 

The audience was certainly Julia Brownley’s that night.  Some came because they heard of the town hall from her newsletter, others from Facebook communities. A very congenial couple informed me they were from, Ventura County Activists for Bernie Sanders.  The Facebook community is now linked to eight other such activist groups in our county.  

You can watch the town hall on KADY’s youtube channel:



Debra Tash is Editor-in-Chief of, past president for Citizens Alliance for Property Rights, business executive and award-winning author, residing in Somis.

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Elle Stockton

Debra, thank you for your excellent article and kind words on behalf of my husband, myself, and our group, Ventura County Activists for Bernie Sanders. We enjoyed our conversation with you and look forward to seeing more of you soon.

Elle Stockton

Debra, thank you for your positive mention of my husband and I along with our grassroots activist group, Ventura County Activists for Bernie Sanders. It was a pleasure speaking with you. We hope to see you again soon. Warm wishes, Elle Stockton and Mark Hirshfeld

Rafael Dagnesses

There was little opposition because the opposition had no idea this was happening and were too busy working and paying higher taxes so others can freeload.

Jade Smith

I was at the meeting and sitting behind Ms. Baber. I’d like to thank Ms. Baber for sharing her experience and for the well written article.

William Hicks

Thanks Debra,

We live in a State that, through several methods to include gerrymandering, lean to the left. Brownley sure fits that description.