The Senate Republicans are drafting their health care bill and it is up to us to stop them from passing something as draconian as the House's American Health Care Act, which would kill so many of our children with chronic illnesses and disabilities.
I live in a state, as do most of my readers, since this is a Texas blog, where my Senators are not very likely to listen. They have thrown their lot in with evil and, while I will never stop trying to help them learn to work for good instead, change takes time and they are deep in the grip of wickedness.
There are, however, Republican Senators who still care about their constituents in other states, who are not comfortable with legislation that takes us back to the days when people with preexisting conditions died for lack of health coverage. They are under incredible pressure, however. Some Congressional aides let it slip during the House vote that Congresspeople who did not vote with what the president wanted were told quite clearly that the president would block projects needed in their districts. Many in Congress caved, thinking their constituents would care more about a bridge than a disabled child.
We have to make the Senate see that this is not so.
We only need two or three Republican Senators to block a bad bill.
We may be in Texas but we know people in other states. Among us, we know people in Alaska, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia. Those are the states we must focus on because they have Republican Senators who are moderate and might be convinced that their constituents care more about sick children than the president's threats. Reach out to them, please. Contact every friend you know in those states and ask them to contact the Senator(s) on the list below and urge them not to pass a bad health care bill.
Here are the Senators who need visits from their constituents to help them stand strong against the president and Paul Ryan:
- Alaska - Lisa Murkowski
- Louisiana - Bill Cassidy
- Maine- Susan Collins
- Nebraska- Ben Sasse and Deb Fischer
- Nevada - Dean Heller
- Ohio - Rob Portman
- Tennessee - Lamar Alexander
- West Virginia - Shelley Moore Capito.
Citizen lobby visits to the staff of elected officials are extremely, extremely effective. Studies show that only seven visits on a single issue have a huge impact on the way an elected official thinks they need to vote in order to be re-elected. Please have your friends in those states call their Senators' offices first thing in the morning to make an appointment to speak with a staffer this week. Setting up the visit takes persistence and follow up. Please encourage them to get their friends to do the same.
At their visit, they should politely explain their problems with the House bill, let them know they do not want their Senator to vote for anything like it and that we need them to work for a better bill, and leave behind a relevant fact sheet for them to read. (It is not helpful to ask for things it is unrealistic to expect your Senator to support like universal health care with a conservative. You have to present yourself as someone whose vote they can win.)
The Friends Committee on national legislation has this to say about lobby visits:
They are a Quaker group and they have this to say about health care:
Here are some facts I put together that people could revise and add to and make into a fact sheet if it reflects their concerns:
The American Health Care Act passed by the House:
- would have caused 14 million Americans to lose health insurance within the year and 24 million would lose coverage by 2026 according to estimates by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates
- was opposed by the AARP due to the impact it would have on Medicare and Medicaid access and stability
- would result in Medicaid cuts that would put at risk the health and safety of 17.4 million children and adults with disabilities and seniors by eliminating much-needed services that allow individuals to live independently in their homes and communities
- would re-instate, but under-fund, high risk pools for people with chronic and complex health care conditions which were used and have been proven ineffective prior to the Affordable Care Act
- would restrict access to critical mental health services
- would greatly eliminate income-based subsidies, replacing them with age-based subsidies which would price many working families out of adequate health insurance for their children and price disabled individuals out of comprehensive coverage that they need to survive
- would allow gap surcharges and wellness program “incentives” that would also disproportionately impact individuals with disabilities who may lose employment due to hospitalizations and who may not be able to reach wellness benchmarks due to their conditions
- was opposed by the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Hospital Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Osteopathic Association, the American Lung Association, the Federation of American Hospitals, America’s Essential Hospitals, National Nurses United, the National Physician’s Alliance, and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons
- the MacArthur Amendment was passed in an attempt to make the bill palatable to the Freedom Caucus. This amendment allows states to opt not to require insurers to provide essential services (like..cancer treatment...and not just in the exchanges...in employer-sponsored health plans as well) if they don't want to and allows "community rating" so insurers in those states can charge so much extra to people with preexisting conditions that even though insurers cannot technically deny people insurance because of preexisting conditions, they can jack the cost up to so many thousands of dollars each month that no sick person will ever be able to afford insurance anyway. Also, through its waivers to states to re-define essential services, it could take away the very greatest protection that the ACA provides to people with serious illnesses and disabilities...the ban on annual limits and lifetime limits. These bans have saved the lives of so many people and now they are in jeopardy again.
- Representative Upton's amendment to create an 8 billion dollar fund to help people with preexisting conditions pay for their insurance when the MacArthur Amendment prices them out is 8 billion for the whole country over 5 years. That cannot pay for anything like what people with serious illnesses and disabilities need. Risk pools don't work.
Citizen lobby visits should be arranged post haste but daily calls to these Senators are also a good idea. Constituents should let them know how the loss of insurance for people with preexisting conditions will affect their lives. Every single day.
Another strategy that should be launched right away is writing Letters to The Editor of the newspapers in the Senator's state. This can take less than 15 minutes but makes a big difference as a Senator will have a staffer who reads every piece of media with that Senator's name in it.
Some tips (actually developed by my daughter who rocks like that ):
- keep it around 250 words
- include both the name of the Senator and the issue for which you are advocating in the letter; example- Senator Murkowski must protect Alaskans with disabilities
- paragraph 1- explain your issue and give a little background; use last sentence to call out Senator by name to act on the issue
- paragraph 2- explain your personal connection to the issue, how the issue is important to you and your state
- paragraph 3 - urge readers to make their voices heard by contacting their Senator; include the phone number and in-district office address of their district office closest to you.
Please share all of this information with your friends in the targeted states who care about health care. Please, if you are in those states, follow through. I know it may seem like a lot. I know it may be out of your comfort zone. It is, however, about the lives of our sons and daughters and we can make an impact to keep them safe.
Do it now, please. There is not much time.