Idaho Republican Raul Labrador was booed Friday after telling a town hall that “nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.”
The remark, in front of an audience at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, was captured on a video recording of the event.
A member of the audience is heard interrupting his speech, saying: “You are mandating people on Medicaid to accept dying."
“No one wants anyone to die," Labrador responded. "That line is so indefensible ... nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.”
The audience shouted with outrage, drowning out the congressman.
Responding to a deluge of angry comments on social media, Labrador admitted his comment wasn't "very elegant."
In a Facebook message he said: "I was responding to a false notion that the Republican health care plan will cause people to die in the streets, which I completely reject."
"In the five-second clip that the media is focusing on, I was trying to explain that all hospitals are required by law to treat patients in need of emergency care regardless of their ability to pay and that the Republican plan does not change that."
Labrador was addressing the crowd in Lewiston the day after the House of Representatives passed the Republican plan to replace Obamacare, by a vote of 217 to 213, just one vote over the 216 needed.
The American Health Care Act will now be sent to a skeptical Senate where it is almost certain to change shape.
The House measure came to the floor Thursday without an updated accounting of how much the bill will cost or its impact. The last assessment, which was done before the bill was altered, said that 24 million people would lose insurance, it would save $300 million and premiums would go down ten percent after ten years.
Consumer advocacy groups have expressed concern over the bill saying it won’t adequately protect patients.
Labrador, who voted for the bill "to lower costs and protect the vulnerable," has previously declined to guarantee that no one will lose coverage under the GOP plan.
"What I can guarantee is that more Americans will be helped by this plan than Obamacare has helped," he said. "More people will have their premiums lowered, more people will have lower out of pocket costs more people will have access to these high risk pools."
The legislation was made more conservative throughout the legislative process to appeal to members like Labrador who wanted nothing short of a complete repeal of Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.