I had not planned to address the ridiculous piece of health ‘care’ legislation under consideration by the Senate again just yet, but my hackles were raised this morning by a story in Think Progress about the new party line floating around on Capitol Hill. The headline read:
Republicans Argue Anyone Who Loses Coverage Under Trumpcare Really Doesn’t Want It
According to the article, this is the ‘talking point’ these days in the halls of Congress. The philosophy being that once the mandate to purchase insurance is gone, some people will simply choose not to have insurance. With reductions in coverage, higher rates, and state’s ability to choose not to cover pre-existing conditions and essential services, the Congressional Budget Office estimates some 22 million people will not be able to afford adequate coverage. The Republicans in Congress seem unable or unwilling to understand how those of us without 7-digit bank accounts live. Let us take a look at a few of the more egregious statements members of Congress have made recently:
- Just this morning, a reporter accused Senator John Cornyn from Texas of not caring that 22 million people would lose their coverage. His response? “Not lose, choose. People will buy what they value.”
- On Sunday, Marc Short, Trump’s director of legislative affairs claimed, “That’s not losing, that’s choosing.”
- Last month, Speaker of the House, Paul Ryans, said, “So it’s not that people are getting pushed off a plan. It’s that people will choose not to buy something they don’t like or want.”
- Back in March, former Representative Jason Chaffetz made this statement: “And you know what? Americans have choices, and they’ve gotta make a choice. And so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care. They’ve gotta make those decisions themselves.”
And the worst one of all came from Representative Mo Brooks from Alabama …
- “My understanding is that it will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool. That helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy.”
Mr. Brooks’ comment is so deplorable that it causes one to question his mental acuity. Let’s face it, most of us have some form of pre-existing condition, whether it is diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, or something more serious such as a heart condition or cancer. His suggestion that those of us with pre-existing conditions are in this situation because we don’t “lead good lives” is a crock of very stinky stuff. Brooks is in line for Filosofa’s Idiot of the Week award soon. Mr. Brooks is from Alabama, as is Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions … maybe that explains a lot.
The prevailing attitude, however, is of greater overall concern than the ignorant comment of Mr. Brooks. It is further proof, as if we needed any, that some of our elected representatives, particularly those of the Republican Party it would seem, are so far removed from the people they are supposed to represent, that they might as well be living in another universe.
If the costs for health insurance rise, as they will do with reduced subsidies, higher costs for certain people, such as those with pre-existing conditions, and reduced benefits, it will not be a matter of “choice”. Or rather, the “choice” will be between putting food on the table, or buying health insurance. A choice between paying the rent in order to avoid being homeless, or buying health insurance. It is NOT a question of buying an i-phone rather than health insurance, and anyone who thinks it is, does not deserve to be sitting in Congress!
The chart below* reflects the average net worth of members of Congress. I think it goes a long way toward explaining why our elected representatives do not understand how those of us in middle and lower income brackets need to make purchasing decisions!
|U.S. Senate||U.S. House of Representatives|
|Year||# of Senate Reports||Senate Average||Year||# of House Reports||House Average|
Not surprisingly, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is among the 10 wealthiest senators with an estimated net worth of $22,841,026.
While I do not pretend to have all the answers for having a Congress that can at least begin to relate to the needs of their constituents, not only in health care, but in all areas, I see a few changes that might have a positive effect.
- Term limits – I have discussed this before. I once was against term limits, thinking that if a senator or representative was good, we would want to keep them as long as possible, and if they were not good, the democratic process would weed them out quickly enough. Turns out, this is not the case, as in this day and age elections are bought by PACs, lobbyists, and large corporations. So, term limits must be seriously considered.
- Gifts to members of Congress – I would propose a moratorium on all gifts to members of Congress, monetary or otherwise. A gift in this case is not a gift, but to put it bluntly, a bribe. Almost every Republican in both the Senate and the House received monetary gifts from the NRA in 2016, ranging from $250 to $11,900. Not huge sums, admittedly, but suggestive of an expected ‘return on investment’ nonetheless. Insurance companies and other large corporations also contribute ‘gifts’ to members, especially during election years. Even if there were no strings attached, there is room for speculation.
- Congressional healthcare – Since members of Congress believe the plan they are proposing is such a great plan, they, too, should be able to take advantage of it! It hardly seems fair that We The People should have this wonderful plan, while our elected representatives are stuck with the one they receive as part of their fringe benefits, whereby the federal government subsidizes approximately 72% of their health care costs.
Ultimately the responsibility to hold members of Congress accountable for their rhetoric and actions rests with We The People. We must stop being influenced in election years by rhetoric and flashy ads sponsored by corporations and PACs whose interest is far different than our own. We must say to the Mitch McConnells and the Paul Ryans, “You know what? You did not go to bat for me over health care, so you are not going back to Washington next year.” And then we need to vote for people who have, perhaps a little less wealth and a lot more conscience. Until we do our homework, research issues and the candidate’s views on those issues, until we all vote and vote responsibly, nothing will change. Think about it.