What I want to teach my young sons as they grow up is to navigate our world by understanding where people are coming from, what they’ve been through, and why they do things. It’s critical to know when people are acting out of pure self-interest (rare) or heroic altruism (we could use more of it) — most swing between the two and are often in between. Understanding this teachers small and large lessons: it takes some of the sting out when other kids don’t share their new toy and it helps to teach our fundamental responsibility to people less fortunate than ourselves. We are better people when we can see beyond ourselves. With that mindset, I really want to understand but I’m at a loss trying to piece together the thinking of elected officials in Washington who are prepared — eager actually — to rip health care away from 20 or 30 million people.
Time and time again they’ve tried — gleeful when they have gotten the votes they needed (that over-the-top, Animal House-like news conference in the Rose Garden when the first health care bill passed the House in May), and utterly dejected when their plans to harm millions have failed. Now, here comes the worst of all: Graham-Cassidy.
What on earth goes through their minds? How do they justify their actions? How can they think it’s okay to treat children, seniors, people with disabilities, and parents whose families rely on them as political commodities that are traded like stocks to make political profits? How could people who have access to the best health care money can buy have such a profound lack of compassion?
The truth slipped out today when Senator Chuck Grassley told the Des Moines Register that Republicans campaigned on Obamacare repeal for years and that is as important a reason to pass Graham-Cassidy. If that’s true — it’s the closest thing we have to an explanation of this repeal-mania — and the only reason Republican leadership is chasing this horrific bill is to keep a campaign promise, then our politics are at rock bottom.
But even at rock bottom there is hope. There is more than playing defense with calls to the Senate, outraged Tweets, and protests and demonstrations which all lead to a made for reality-TV ending. In Maine the voters are going on offense, taking their health care into their own hands. They are not waiting for Washington’s empathy gene to kick in. After watching their Governor veto expanding access to Medicaid six times, Mainers launched a ballot initiative campaign that will, in effect, override the Governor’s veto. If passed this November, 70,000 people will gain access to Medicaid coverage. This will unquestionably change people’s lives and will significantly help hospitals and clinics, particularly in rural parts of the state.
We know that quality, affordable health care is central to a fair economy and a decent life. The expanded access to Medicaid and key insurance reforms included in the ACA have saved countless lives and strengthened the economy. The good news is that voters in other states can follow Maine’s lead, defy Washington, and use their voice and the power of their vote to protect themselves and their fellow citizens — even as the White House and Congress scramble for that last devastating vote.