They need to hear from us, too
This afternoon I wrote postcards to seven US senators asking them to vote NO on Graham-Cassidy, the latest Republican attempt to dismantle Obamacare and rob people of their health care. I'm not usually that vocal in public about my politics. Social media generally makes me slightly queasy, even if it is the water we all swim in these days. But the issue of health care feels urgent to me.
Anyone who follows my work at all closely probably knows that I have published two books about a particular illness and death and its aftermath. In March of 2005 my girlfriend at the time, Cheryl Weaver, was diagnosed with cancer – Hodgkins Lymphoma. Despite an initially positive prognosis the disease failed to respond to treatment, and in November of that year the disease killed her. In my books I didn't delve too deeply into the details of our particular odyssey through the health care system, but one relevant fact is that Cheryl didn't have health insurance. For several months before her diagnosis she had been dealing with a variety of what felt like unrelated, inexplicable, minor health issues. She hadn't gone to see a doctor because, at the time we couldn't afford it. The simple fact is that had she had insurance she may well have had a chance. And her story is far from unique. Lack of health insurance literally kills people every single day in America. Wealth should not determine who gets care in this country any more than it should determine who has access to the justice system or the political process. It doesn't have to be this way.
When President Obama made health care the center of his agenda in 2009... and it seemed like it might fail, I felt like I had to do something. I was just going to auction off some of my own artwork and send the money to someone who was working on the issue. A friend suggested that I try and get a few other artists involved. I bothered and cajoled a few friends and acquaintances in the comics world to donate some original art to raise money and ended up getting artwork from 21 other artists. I found an organization that was supporting the administration's efforts (Democracy For America) and trying to push the Democrats to the left on the issue – toward Single Payer. We raised over $7000, which felt at once incredibly gratifying... and like a drop in the bucket. Since Obamacare passed, the law has given many people access to care they would otherwise not have. It has saved lives and kept people out of bankruptcy when they fall ill. But it is very much a half-measure and something of a mess. But improving the law is not currently on the table. Single Payer is a conversation for 2020 at this point. Getting halfway to your destination is necessarily a pre-requisite for getting all the way. Democrats and Progressives must hold the line on the little patch of ground we've gained if we are to expand that victory and get to, say, Single Payer or a Medicaid buy-in for all.
There are a few Republican senators who have expressed discomfort with the repeal efforts. What they need is political cover to take a vote their donors and their leadership will likely resent... or just to delay the vote for a mere ten more days – because of obscure senate rules the vote has to happen by midnight on September 30th. They will definitely be hearing from the radical right. They will definitely be feeling pressure from Donald Trump. They need to hear from people on the other side.
This is what I wrote:
Dear Senator _________
Please vote NO on Graham-Cassidy. It is a heartless bill that will deny healthcare to millions of people. And without access to healthcare people die. Please vote NO.
This is who I wrote:
Lisa Murkowski 522 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510
Shelley Moore Capito 172 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510
Rob Portman 448 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510
Susan Collins 68 Sewall Street, Room 507, Augusta, ME 04330
Jeff Flake PO Box 12512, Tempe, AZ 85284
Dean Heller 324 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510
John McCain 218 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510