Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Imagine a worse health care bill than the one drafted by the U.S. Senate's Cruel Thirteen

All my life, I have been sending missives off into the void. I have sent chatty letters off to family and friends -- rarely do they get answered. I send complaint letters that end up in someone's circular file. This prepared my for life as a fiction writer, where many fictions are sent off and few return. It also prepared me for life as a blogger. Many posts, few comments, although I do get some amusing spam. 

So when someone answers a letter I am impressed. It takes some effort to put thoughts down on paper or computer, even if it's bullshit. Today I received an e-mail in letter form from Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, M.D. The letter writer is cool, calm and collected. Not Barrasso, probably, but a staffer. D.C. staffers usually are competent overachievers, college grads who seek to make a mark on the world. I admire their pluck, their ability to make a living in pricey and super-competitive D.C. 

I am including Barrasso's letter here. It's about the health care issue and it deserves to be read. As we know, the "discussion draft" was written by thirteen male Republican senators from red states. Two, Barrasso and Mike Enzi, are from Wyoming. This tells you something right away about the bill.  It does not represent the mainstream of American thought but an aging, white, wealthy fringe group. No surprise that the bill represents a reactionary view of America and Americans. 

I live in Wyoming's largest city (pop. 65,000) in the state's largest county (pop. about 96,000). The entire state has about 580,000 people, mostly white. We are considered a rural state, a "pioneer state" when it comes to federal grantmaking. When I was a grant writer, I often played up the fact that the state has more antelope than humans. The feds always gave us bonus points for that. Not that they wanted antelope to benefit from taxpayer funds. Coastal folks just need a bit of help understanding life without a coffee shop on every corner and sweaty bodies crowded into subway trains. 

If you really wanted to write a health care bill that represented the true needs of Americans, you would convene a committee that represented the U.S. demographic. It would be kind of like the demographic I saw yesterday at the Food Bank for Larimer County in Fort Collins. My daughter's friend had just been kicked out of her apartment. Her husband works but hasn't been paid in months. They have a nine-month-old boy, a smart, cute kid who started life as a premie but is catching up fast. I was in town so I drove her and her son to the food bank. She doesn't have a car. 

At the food bank, I saw an aging hippie, a Hispanic man bent from scoliosis, a young black mother pushing two kids in a shopping cart, three young people who looked like college students. There were lots of white people, most of them without the same means to wealth as Barrasso and Enzi and Mitch McConnell.  They were hungry. Their kids were hungry. Many looked to have health issues. 

Wonder what kind of health care legislation they would draft? Would it cut off access to health care for millions like them? Would it slash Medicaid to benefit the super-rich? 

Lest you think I have some rosy view of poverty, that it ennobles people and would cause them to write benevolent legislation for their fellow humans, think again. If you put thirteen of these food bank patrons into a closed room and demanded them to write a health care bill, they might come up with something terrible, such as death camps for gays or gilded mansions for themselves and screw everyone else. Remember, some of these people voted for Trump. 

But this imaginary committee's legislation cannot be worse than the one drafted by The Cruel Thirteen. A new poll reports that only 17 percent of Americans approve of the Senate bill. That's almost as low as Congress's approval rating.

Did my daughter's friend get food for her baby? The bank was out of formula but had jars of baby food. She was happy to show off a container of blackberries that looked fresh and didn't have any mold on them. Cheese and bread and canned veggies. Nothing great but her family won't starve as it looks for another place to live in Trump's America. 

Anyway, here is Sen. Barrasso's letter. The url of the pdf has a strange title: It's a bona fide link and takes you to all 145 pages of this monstrosity. But why "Reconcilistion" rather than "Reconciliation?" Make of it what you will:
Dear Michael,  
Thank you for taking the time to contact me about health care. It is good to hear from you.  
There are serious challenges facing health care in our nation. When Obamacare was being considered in 2009, Americans were promised that the law would give patients more choices and lower costs. This has not occurred.  
Instead, folks in Wyoming are down to just a single insurance company willing to sell Obamacare policies. Our state also has some of the highest insurance rates in the country. Our experience in Wyoming is not unique. Across the county insurance companies are fleeing the individual insurance market and prices continue to skyrocket.  
Congress must act soon before patients are left with no ability to purchase coverage. The Senate is hearing from all sides about the best ways to address the significant problems in health care. In particular, I am committed to improving care for people living in rural communities and protecting patients with preexisting conditions.  
You can review the complete Senate health care discussion draft here: In the coming weeks, the Senate will also have an open amendment process, where Senators can bring forward their best ideas to improve this legislation 
Once more, thank you for contacting me. I appreciate hearing your thoughts and comments about this important issue. 
John Barrasso, M.D. 

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