Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) told a town hall meeting in Hubbard, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 30, that Obamacare needs to be repealed. One man at the gathering questioned that position. (Reuters)

HUBBARD, Iowa — His voice quavering with emotion, Mike Valde told Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) about his brother-in-law: He was a barber who couldn’t afford health care until the Affordable Care Act, and after getting coverage he went to the doctor for the first time in years, and was diagnosed with multiple tumors. He died soon after.

“Mark never had health care until Obamacare,” Valde told Cruz in a middle school cafeteria here. “What are you going to replace it with?”


A Cruz supporter listens at a rally Saturday in Ames, Iowa. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

Cruz has made repealing the Affordable Care Act one of the central tenets of his presidential run. He tells voters that he plans to “repeal every word of Obamacare,” a line that typically gets big cheers. Valde heard those cheers, and Cruz’s opposition to the law, at an event earlier this year. He wanted to ask Cruz about his stance but didn’t. He says he was “kicking myself” because of it. So he decided to come to see Cruz again; this time to ask the question.

Cruz expressed his sorrow for Valde’s loss.

“Under Obamacare, millions of Americans have lost their jobs. Millions of Americans have lost their doctors, have seen their premiums skyrocket. That is happening all across this country,” he said, noting that President Obama said the average family’s health insurance premium would drop by $2,500.

“I’ve joked, anyone whose premiums have dropped $2500 as President Obama promised should vote for Hillary Clinton. I’ll take everybody else,” as some people chuckled. Valde wasn’t amused.

“My question is, what are you going to replace it with?” Valde asked.

“Sir, I promise you, I will answer your question. I’m laying out first of all the problems,” Cruz said. He went on to say that the “most pragmatic, the most prudent” thing to do is repeal the law and start over. When that is done, he said that competition in the marketplace should be expanded, people should be able to buy health insurance across state lines and that everyone wants people to have insurance coverage.

“Your father in law, he couldn’t afford it,” Cruz said.

“Brother-in-law,” Valde responded.

“Your brother-in-law couldn’t afford it,” Cruz said.

“Right. But he could afford it, he finally got it under Obama,” Valde told Cruz.

Cruz repeated Valde’s story, that by the time Valde’s brother-in-law went to a doctor, he was already dying.

“He would have gotten it earlier, if he could have afforded it earlier, but because of government regulations, he couldn’t,” Cruz said.

Valde, a Democrat who said he will caucus for Hillary Clinton, said after the exchange that Cruz hadn’t answered his question.

The answer, he said, was incomplete.

“I think he said what he wanted, but pragmatically, I don’t know how he’s going to get it through Congress,” he said.

Valde said he knows there have been many problems implementing the law, but he said it allowed his brother-in-law to finally afford health care.

“It’s a stump line, we’re gonna repeal Obamacare, every word, and then you get the crowd response,” he said. “I want an America with health care.”