(The following is a letter to my senator, Roy Blunt, R-MO, expressing my concerns about his efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.)
Dear Sen. Blunt;
I have watched with interest over the past couple of years as you have continued to speak on the Senate floor about the evils of Obamacare.
Each time you share the heartbreaking stories of people whose lives have been damaged by the Affordable Care Act. You speak of premiums that are so high that families are having to choose between health insurance and food.
You speak of high deductibles that families face and how they avoid making vital trips to the hospital because they know they will feel the full brunt of the cost.
You never fail to come up with new stories of businesses that have had to lay off workers because they cannot afford to continue to pay their health insurance benefits.
While I have no doubt you are an honorable man (your supporters always say so during your campaigns), it is hard to believe that every single person you have talked to has been irreparably damaged by Obamacare.
When I have published blog posts about the Affordable Care Act, while I have seen many comments criticizing it, I have seen just as many talk about the positive effects the act has had on their lives.
I certainly don't understand why these people have not been talking to you since your vote on this issue is crucial.
Haven't people told you how important it has been to have pre-existing conditions, some of them leading to catastrophic illnesses, covered. Before that, how many times did we see notices about chili suppers or car washes to help defray medical expenses for someone undergoing cancer treatments? I remember working with other teachers and employees at my school nine years ago to organize a fundraiser for a janitor who was undergoing treatment for cancer. It was successful, bringing in more than $1,000.
Though it helped, that was only a drop in the bucket. And while the janitor's family appreciated the way the community rallied around him, it did little to lessen the worries.
And what about those who have been able to have routine annual checkups, tests, and the kind of maintenance that prevents many illnesses, covered by their plans?
Or those who have been able to keep their children on their plans until age 26?
What about all of the people who have health insurance now who previously would have gone to emergency rooms, increasing the costs for all of us?
Hasn't even one of those people talked to you, Sen. Blunt?
Even more importantly, how about those people whose lives have been saved by the Affordable Care Act?
Haven't even one of those people told you their stories so you could repeat them on the Senate floor?
You have been quick to post your regular Obamacare criticisms on YouTube; couldn't you share even one of the stories of people whose lives have been spared because of this act that you have spent the past seven years criticizing?
I am one of those people.
When I lost my teaching job, in order to maintain health insurance, I had to pay hundreds of dollars of money I didn't have in order to pay for two months of insurance.
After that, I was able to enroll in Obamacare and have my health insurance costs covered for a reasonable amount per month. Because of that coverage, I did not have to go into bankruptcy or depend on the kindness of my friends and neighbors when I underwent triple bypass surgery last year.
More likely, without Obamacare, I would not be here to write these words.
You are an intelligent man, Sen. Blunt. You have to be aware that the Affordable Care Act has saved thousands of lives.
Over the past seven years, all we have heard from you has been "repeal and replace." With so many parts of the Affordable Care Act that are working, why have you never concentrated on fixing the problems with it?
I keep hearing about the rising premiums and the many places where people no longer have a health insurance plan being offered under Obamacare or have only one choice.
Why didn't you work to reduce those premiums?
Why did you not work on plans to reduce pharmaceutical prices?
You claim there would be great savings if we could only sell insurance across state lines. Why didn't you work to make that happen?
Was it easier just to continue railing on the Senate floor about the damage Obamacare was doing and use its problems for political advantage instead of taking steps to reduce the pain that you kept posting on YouTube to stir up the base?
Above all, why did you and your fellow Republicans work to hamstring the Affordable Care Act from the beginning by stirring up a revolution among younger, healthier people by convincing them their rights were being violated by compelling them to buy health insurance? If those people had enrolled, the plan would have paid for itself from the beginning and the premiums would have remained lower.
When you were stirring up the people into thinking that having to buy health insurance was a violation of their constitutional rights, did you ever tell them that the basic construct of Obamacare worked successfully in Massachusetts under your 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney or that various similar versions of the plan have been pushed by your party for the past quarter of a century?
When your wife and all of your children are lobbyists, do you no longer feel the need to listen to what anyone says whose interests don't coincide with the firms that help fatten their paychecks?
I am trying to remember the Roy Blunt I knew a quarter of a century ago when you were secretary of state and running for the Republican nomination for governor. I had a chance to talk with you during a stop at the local radio station in Lamar, MO and asked if you were going to go to a major Republican gathering in Carthage, where I worked as a reporter for the Carthage Press.
You told me you did not plan to go and that did not surprise me. Carthage, after all, was the home of your primary opponent, Attorney General Bill Webster, and the word was out that the event would be more of a pep rally for Webster than a forum for all candidates.
While you were being interviewed on the radio program, I talked with your wife (the one you had then) and your children, Matt, the future governor of Missouri, now a lobbyist, and your daughter, Amy, who is also a lobbyist.
When you finished the radio interview, you told me you had changed your mind and that you would attend the event in Carthage.
It was an act of political courage when you stepped into Memorial Hall at Carthage that evening. The people there were clearly unhappy to see you since you were the person trying to keep their native son from becoming governor and while you did not win their votes during your short talk that night, you did earn their respect.
In a few days, it will have been 25 years since you made that decision and took part in that display of political courage.
I miss that Roy Blunt.
It would take an even bigger act of political courage for you to take a giant step and meet your opposition halfway to make sure that all of your constituents, not just those whose signatures appear on the checks to your campaign account, or those whose opinions coincide with the special interests whose support of you and your family has enabled you to live comfortably at a posh Washington estate, have health insurance.
I hope you have it in you, but I sincerely doubt it.
That was a Roy Blunt of a different time.
That was a Roy Blunt who no longer exists.