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Crowd Has More To Say At Third Bilirakis Town Hall

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Daylina Miller/WUSF
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis held his third public listening session on health care reform in Wesley Chapel on Wednesday night.

It drew more than 200 people who both condemned and supported Obamacare. But a comment by a Pasco Republican leader at Bilirakis’ last meeting was at the forefront of some voters' minds.

Pasco Republican Executive Committee secretary Bill Akins of Hudson resigned from his position after a controversy that started when he brought up spoke at the public meeting and said the health law has a provision for "death panels" -- which Politifact ranked "lie of the Year" in 2009.

Chelsea Bunch, who also attended the previous meeting in New Port Richey, questioned whether Bilirakis believed it.

"I just would really like to hear you say publicly that there is no such thing as death panels in the ACA," Bunch said.

And Bilirakis responded: "There is no such thing as death panels in the ACA."

Couldn't make it to the listening session? Hear the whole thing here:

Bilirakis held listening sessions in Palm Harbor and New Port Richey earlier this month. He said he's committed to repealing Obamacare, but plans to help pass a new health law.

He released a statement on his website immediately following the session, which went half an hour over the original 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. timeframe:

“I held a series of public listening sessions on health care because it is my duty as a representative to hear firsthand from my constituents, whether we agree or disagree on the issues. I will continue to seek common ground and constructive exchanges of ideas with the people of my district. That’s what democracy is all about,”said Bilirakis. “But the Affordable Care Act in its current state is unsustainable and it’s only going to get worse—costs are going up, while choices and flexibility are dwindling. We need a health care system that is truly patient-focused, and I will use the input from my recent meetings to shape my work on the replacement legislation.”

Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.