I posted a link to this transcript in my Saturday Link-Love but I wanted to post the actual text of my conversation with Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) from last Thursday. As you may recall, I was part of the BlogHer conference call on health care along with some other great bloggers. Reading the transcript back, I’m a little embarrassed at how incoherent I was. Okay, I’m more than a little embarrassed, but I was really emotional. Moreover, I was hesitant and nervous about challenging a Republican member of Congress, even over the telephone.
Here’s what I want to point out: I asked Rep. Lummis if there was any way she could support the current health care reform bill. She never answered that question and instead reverted to her Republican talking points. It seems to me that if Republicans really are in favor of health care reform like they profess to be and aren’t just playing politics, they would realize that health care reform is happening. They would be demanding a chair at the negotiation table and arguing for what was best for their constituents, not their campaign financiers.
The other notable point from the conversation is that after I talked about how Medicaid and disability are demonized, Rep. Lummis went on to tell me I shouldn’t be ashamed of being on the program. Rep. Lummis barely skipped a beat before going on to say that Medicare and Medicaid are going broke and she refuses to burden her daughter and grandchildren with these unsustainable government programs. I’m sure she didn’t realize she was doing it, but Rep. Lummis was doing the exact “demonizing” I was talking about: Making me feel like I am contributing to our national economic downfall by being a recipient of an “entitlement” program. She nearly brought me to tears.
Anyways, here’s my portion of the call:
Operator: Thank you. And the next question coming from the line of 455-L. Please proceed.
(Danine): My name is (Danine) and I am calling from (assumption). I have a complicated medical history and I currently on – I’m so sorry – on Medicaid and I want to get off of those programs, be kind of quite frankly, Medicaid and disability are demonized and treated, you know, every time you talk about an entitlement program, you know, well, they’re demonized.
But I absolutely have to have health insurance. I have a condition called (hydrocephalus) and I have a shunt in my head that relieves the pressure from my brain and every single day of my life, I have to be able to afford health insurance and healthcare.
And I – in order to get off of SSI and Medicaid, I need to be able to – I’m working towards self-employment – and I need to be able to afford health insurance.
And with all due respect and I mean this incredibly, the reality is is that our greatest chance for – I don’t – I can’t – the reality is is that I probably won’t be able to afford private insurance in the current environment and my best option is probably – I’m sorry – but it’s probably in with this healthcare reform as the Democrats are proposing it.
Is there any possible way that you can support their policies or get on-board with healthcare reform in 2009? I need healthcare reform. I need something because the day that I don’t have health insurance, that could be the day that my shunt breaks and I need emergency brain
It’s a life – I think it was literally started – no, I’m sorry. I don’t remember which person said it. That’s the day that I could – that’s the day that – it’s a life and death thing and I’m sorry, but it’s very, very personal for me.
And I need my legislative Congress people to help. I’m not trying to put you on the spot, but…
Cynthia Lummis: No, you’re not putting me on the spot and I appreciate your dilemma. I want you to know how proud I am of America that Medicaid is there for you and you should not feel the least bit apologetic about the fact that Medicaid is serving you to help you with a condition that is highly debilitating and that really affects your quality of life.
That’s why it’s there so please take advantage of it. You are exactly the person that it was meant for. In the case that your condition were to improve to the extent that you could leave the availability of Medicaid, there would be tax credits in Republican plans for low-income people.
Of course the high-risk pools if you still can’t get coverage would be available to you. There is in Republican bills the opportunity for insurance to be purchased across state lines so in states like my state of Wyoming which has a very small population and health insurance cannot be pooled across state lines, bills would allow for Wyoming to participate in much bigger pools.
And the people of Wyoming could band together either through their church or their trade associations or states themselves to provide larger pools of people who can share the burden and lower the cost of health insurance, especially for those of us as I said that are in areas of very small populations.
So by all means, keep your Medicaid, keep healthy to the extent that those medications are helping you have a higher quality of life and don’t be the least apologetic about participating in Medicaid. That’ what it’s there for.
Now the problem I have with the bill that the Speaker rolled-out today is that it forces on states unfunded mandates to expand Medicaid. Where are the states going to get the money to do that?
In California, there would estimates that it could cost California $8 billion a year to expand Medicaid according to the Speaker’s bill. California is already awash in debt. They can’t add $8 billion to the state’s debts in order to cover programs that Congress mandates on them that they can’t afford to pay for.
So the problem I have with the Speaker’s bill and with these government-run programs that Democrats are advocating is that they are not paid for so it will just create a situation just like we’re going to face with Medicare down the road and that is that Medicare will eventually go broke because it is going to be paying out more in benefits than people are paying in.
And with those kinds of unsustainable government programs that promise a lot but are unpaid for, we are burdening our children and grandchildren with paying for us and for our needs without regard to what our children and grandchildren will face in the future.
And I’m opposed to saddling my child and her children with debts that I incur. I need to make sure that while I’m here in Congress, I am being responsible to the next generation and doing the best job I can for us in this generation.
That’s why I encourage you to stay on Medicaid to the extent that you are able to and when your situation improves to the extent that you are able to afford insurance, take advantage of the tax credits. Take advantage of state high-risk pools and thank you and, you know, I hope your condition improves and thank you for your question.
(Danine): I have one quick question. How is Medicare and Medicaid more – how is Medicaid more financially solvent and this is – I’m not being just (cold), I actually want to know?
Cynthia Lummis: What was your question again?
(Danine): Is Medicaid more financially solvent than Medicare?
Cynthia Lummis: Well, Medicaid is – they’re both in trouble. They’re both in trouble in the long run because they’re paying out more in benefits than they take in and every year more of the federal budget is going to pay for entitlement programs, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the states are responsible for of course picking-up a share of Medicaid so it’s also having a big impact on state budgets.
(Danine ): Okay. Thank you.
Read the rest of the transcript here