Murkowski speaks with constituents about health care during Senate recess

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks with reporters following her annual address to the Alaska Legislature on Feb. 22, 2017. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Wrangell got some national attention on the Fourth of July, but it wasn’t for its parade.

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It was because of a visit from Lisa Murkowski.

She was one of just four of the Senate’s 52 Republicans to make a public appearance during the national holiday.

Longtime Alaska journalist Julia O’Malley covered Murkowski’s Wrangell visit for the Washington Post.

“I would say 85 or 90 percent of the people who came up were talking about health care and her being sort of moderate on that issue and potentially not voting for the GOP proposal,” O’Malley said. “She certainly didn’t commit to vote one way or another, but seemed very sympathetic to the concerns of people around her who were just dealing with issue of cost and access.”

O’Malley, who stood beside Murkowski, said residents shared healthcare horror stories.

She said the senator seemed particularly moved when one woman spoke of $10 thousand dollar deductibles that discouraged her from seeking medical care.

Murkowski made another appearance on Friday in Homer, where she held a meeting with constituents at City Hall.

In her opening remarks, Senator Murkowski said it was “important” that the senate delayed the vote on healthcare reform, and she criticized the lack of transparency in the drafting of the new healthcare bill.

“You’ve got an effort to advance something quickly because we want to get it behind us,” Murkowski said. “That doesn’t yield good solutions.”

Senator Murkowski spoke in front of a standing-room crowd of more than one hundred people. The questions were overwhelmingly focused on healthcare with numerous people decrying the current Senate Republican plan. Multiple people called for a single-payer system, something the Senator said was unrealistic given the current political climate. Nobody at the event spoke in favor of the bill.

Healthcare was not the only topic of conversation during Senator Murkowski’s visit to Homer.

Later in the day, she attended a luncheon hosted by the Homer Katchamek Bay Rotary Club where she was asked about the potential of North Korea launching a weapon that could reach Alaska. She responded that the country’s missile tests are alarming and that the threat should be taken seriously.

“I think we have seen a level of escalation in this past week and these past few days that most were hoping we would never see. Maybe this is what precipitates that broader level of engagement from other nations to weigh in.”

Senator Murkowski went on to say that missile defense enhancements coming to Alaska benefit not just the state, but the nation as a whole.

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Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska - Juneau
Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.