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This morning I did yet another BlogHer conference call on health care reform. This one was with Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY). Did you catch the “R” after her name? Yep, she’s a Republican and vehemently opposed to “The Speaker’s Bill” as she put it. I’ll do a quick recap of the call, but long story short, there’s not a snowball’s chance in you-know-where that Congresswoman Lummis will vote “aye” on the Affordable Health Care for America Act.
At the beginning of the call, Rep. Lummis told Republicans are in favor of health care reform. They would just do it differently. She said she didn’t know what the rush was and that Republicans want to “borrow the best of the bills” to reform the system one step at a time. She also said the current health care system services 85% of Americans “very well” so we should focus our energy on trying to help the other 15%.
Rep. Lummis’ proposals for piecemeal reform including high-risk insurance pools that are (supposedly) available in every state. She also wants to establish a tax credit so individuals can buy private insurance policies that would be portable even if they lost their job. Her third idea was to allow consumers to buy insurance policies across state lines.
Rep. Lummis said she was “terribly concerned” about “The Speaker’s Bill” (doesn’t it sound evil?) because it shifts many costs to the states by expanding Medicare.” That’s a direct quote. (Hence the quotation marks.) I’m pretty sure she meant to say “Medicaid” as the bill does expand Medicaid. Nothing recent is coming up on Google for “expand Medicare”.
Here are the calls:
Loralee, of the LooneyTunes blog, asked Rep. Lummis to elaborate on her ideas for expanding the high-risk pools. The congresswoman told Loralee she is co-sponsoring HR 3400, which would provide more funding for high-risk pools so individuals could buy into the plans at a lower rate. This would be paid for with unused stimulus funds (which apparently aren’t needed for any of the bridges that are falling down.)
Jaelithe, a blogger for MOMocrats.com, told Rep. Lummis “there is a rush” for health care reform. People like her step-father, who has diabetes, are going without health insurance and life-saving medicine, such as insulin. (Which is kind of important to diabetics). Jaelithe asked Rep. Lummis if there was anything explicitly prohibiting insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions in HR 3400, her go-to bill. To my recollection, Rep. Lummis didn’t really answer that. Instead, she told Jaelithe her step-father could join the high-risk pool in his state. What Rep. Lummis apparently doesn’t know is that high-risk pools are still pretty darn expensive for the average citizen, especially if you’re poor.
Nancy from the Sunlight Foundation asked how Rep. Lummis felt about transparency, at which point, I mentally blocked out so I could figure out what question I wanted to ask
Next up, Yours Truly: I was really emotional so I’m sure this came out crazy and incoherent but I told Rep. Lummis that I have a rare medical condition and that I am on SSI/Medicaid. I don’t want to be on disability because honestly, it’s demonized. I know I said that twice. (The shaming of people on disability, Medicaid and other “entitlement” programs is a post for another day.) I told her I want to get off those programs very badly and am working towards self-employment but I need affordable health insurance. I need health care reform. With all due respect, the only way that’s going to happen this year is with the Democrats’ plan. I asked her if there was any way she could support the Democrats’ billWithout taking a breath, Rep. Lummis did not answer my question. Well, actually, she did – by not answering it.
She started immediately listing her Republican talking points about how they would do health care reform: tax credits, high-risk pools and let people buy insurance across state lines. I actually started rolling my eyes while she was talking. She never once said anything about how she could work to find a compromise with the Democrats which means she can’t. Or won’t.
Also, Rep. Lummis basically told me not to apologize for being on Medicaid and that I was the reason the system was there. I had nothing to be ashamed or guilty about. However, seconds later, she told me both Medicare and Medicaid are going broke and we are saddling our children and grandchildren with back-breaking debt.How am I not supposed to feel guilty about that debt every time I go to the doctor or receive my monthly check via direct deposit? Or how about when Sen. Judd Gregg goes on MSNBC and basically pitches a fit about how health care reform is another entitlement program that will bankrupt future generations, like he did less than an hour before I spoke to Rep. Lummis?
Needless to say, I was not impressed with Rep. Lummis.
I was, however, very impressed with Erin Kotecki Vest who some of you may know as @QueenOfSpain on Twitter. Erin asked Rep. Lummis if she was in favor of expanding Medicare and Medicaid after listening to talk about how wonderful she thought Medicaid was for people like me (more on that in a moment). Rep. Lummis said she was glad I was able to take advantage of Medicaid but said it would be “inaccurate” to say she supports the program as it is. “I’m glad that the safety net is there for the last caller,” she told Erin, referring to me. Still, she said she is an advocate for reforming Medicare. “We must ferret out waste, fraud and abuse.”
Can we please ferret the Republicans out of this debate? I appreciate the bipartisanship that the Sunlight Foundation and Blogher tried to introduce to this conversation but at this point, isn’t the GOP irrelevant? I want to pretend they are, at least, because John McCain and Lindsey Graham’s influence on Joe Lieberman is driving me up the freakin’ wall. If this health care house of cards comes falling down because Joe Lieberman, who was elected vice-president of the United States by the majority of the people in this country in 2000, decides to kill it, I just don’t know what I’ll do.
I just don’t.
UPDATED: 6:09 PM CST
For the record, in case that statement about “what I’ll do” if Joe Lieberman filibusters health care reform sounded weird or could in any way be construed as threatening, let me be clear: The only thing I’ll do is say bad words when no one’s listening so I can pretend I’m still a lady. Or I’ll engage in grassroots lobbying by emailing, faxing and telling my story. Nothing else. Yep, I’m kinda paranoid that anything I write online is considered published and could be traced back to me someday so there. I’ve covered my butt.