“Nevertheless, they persisted,” could be said about New Jersey teens Joseph Zetkulic and Daisy Confoy. Teens are often portrayed as people who know little about or are indifferent to what is going on in the world, or even in their own country. This description cannot be applied here.
Concerned with what they were hearing about the details of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), specifically the section about preexisting conditions, Zetkulic and Confoy decided to do more than just rant on Facebook.
The two high school students attended a local town hall meeting, where their congressman, Republican Representative Tom MacAuthur, would be answering questions from his constituents.
“My friend Joey saw someone tweet about the Town Hall,” said Confoy in an interview with Amy’s Smart Girls. “After reading about MacArthur’s role in reviving the American Health Care Act, we felt it was only right to go.”
The AHCA would repeal the Affordable Care Act, which was passed under the Obama administration. Under the proposed bill, people with certain preexisting conditions could potentially be charged more for insurance.
Under Obamacare, insurers were prohibited from discriminating against individual participants and beneficiaries based on their health status. The list of factors under the term “health status” included conditions relating to acts of sexual assault and domestic violence. The AHCA allows states to get a waiver so that “health status” no longer has to be protected.
“How did it pass your conscience to allow rape to become a pre-existing condition?” Zetkulic asked MacArthur. “Is rape considered a pre-existing condition under your amendment, yes or no?”
To this, Macarthur responded “no.” Yet Zetkulic and Confoy were not satisfied with many of MacArthur’s responses.
“I was upset and angry about how MacArthur had been responding (or not responding) to questions asked all evening,” Confoy told Amy’s Smart Girls.
Confoy persisted on the issue and questioned MacArthur on the topic again. “After my friend Joseph Zetkulic initially brought it up, I could tell [MacArthur] didn’t want to address the issue of rape. My guess is that he was afraid of admitting to implications in the AHCA that could affect sexual assault survivors. It’s not a comfortable topic to talk about, but I felt like I needed to push him to give a concrete answer, to force him to talk about an issue that affects so many of his constituents, but that he largely ignores,” said Confoy.
As a representative, MacArthur has the responsibility to work in a way that best represents the needs and wants of his constituents. In addition to this, he owes his constituents an explanation for the decisions he makes. By making their voices heard, Zetkulic and Confoy not only did their part to get involved in local government, but they also forced MacArthur to speak to and look into the eyes of two young people who could be affected by the actions he takes in the government. Change happens when people refuse to be silenced and when those with power are held accountable. Zetkulic and Confoy may be not yet be able to vote, but they are already making a difference.
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