HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - It was a brown bag lunch scheduled for noon Tuesday but, while few brought food, many brought burning questions.
"I want to know what the Congressman has to say about federal employees, because our pensions are under attack," said town hall attendee Kenny Harrell.
On the town hall circuit through District four, Congressman Steven Palazzo has been talking economy, jobs, federal worker pensions and - lately - health care and specifically, the Affordable Care Act.
"We can't afford it," said Palazzo at the town hall.
Governor Phil Bryant said he plans to opt out of a key element of the act - hundreds of millions of federal dollars offered to Mississippi to cover the expansion of Medicaid - in order to insure all residents - for the first five years. Palazzo said he supports Bryant's decision to turn down the federal funding.
"I think that's what the federal government's famous for doing, giving us a little money, pushing us in the direction but then we forget about the hooks and that we're going to have to pay later," said Palazzo.
But in a state that consistently ranks at the bottom nationally in almost every public health category - obesity, birth rate, life expectancy, and the list goes on - some question why Mississippi would deny itself the much-needed funding.
"We always take money from the government or anybody else with strings attached," said Tom Price, who supports the expansion of Medicaid. "You can't borrow money from the bank personally without strings being attached to it."
"We all understand we need health care reform and our goal is to make sure that there's going to be access to health care and it's going to be affordable, it's just this health care bill's not going to be the mechanism to do that," said Palazzo.
No policy alternative to the Affordable Care Act has been put on the table so far, but both the Governor and Palazzo have said they'd like to encourage people to take better care of themselves.
"People have got to be held accountable for what they put in their mouth and whether or not they exercise," said Palazzo.