Visiting congress

Wednesday, March 29 was a spectacularly beautiful day and my wife Liz and I used it to tramp the halls of Congress as part of a group of about a dozen Health Care is a Human Right volunteers pushing for an expanded Medicare for all health insurance system.

In teams of two, we visited the offices of all 435 members of the House of Representatives, and all 100 Senate offices, distributing long sheets of information about what Medicare for all would do and how it would work to everyone’s benefit. We also collected business cards for each elected official’s health legislative staff specialist.

We received the same, pleasant, helpful responses from every office receptionist regardless of party or ideology, from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office to South Carolina’s Joe “you lied” Wilson’s in the House.

In the House, HR 676 already exists with dozens of co-sponsors, all Democrats, while Sen. Bernie Sanders has said he plans to introduce a similar bill in the Senate very soon.

Although no one expects expanded Medicare to actually pass anytime soon, we feel it is important to keep pushing, especially now that the Republicans and the Trump administration are hinting that they may undermine the Affordable Care Act administratively after failing to repeal it.

In fact, at a House budget hearing as we walked the halls, Trump health secretary Tom Price was hinting during his testimony, according to the Washington Post (Mar.30), that the administration could move to undermine the ACA with budget cuts or rule changes that would severely damage the ACA, throwing millions off their insurance. A pending lawsuit could also strip away the vital premium subsidies that have allowed millions of people to buy their own insurance on the exchanges, if the Trump administration refuses to defend the law.

Expanded Medicare would make things a whole lot better. No premiums, no deductibles or co-pays, and every singe man, woman, and child would be covered. Everyone could get the treatment they need when they need it and not have to worry about going bankrupt or losing their house. It would be paid for by a modest tax on everyone, which is obviously the most sensible way to deal with this problem.

Actual costs and charges could be cut, reams of insurance forms and arguments over what will be paid in a claim could be eliminated, and the staff of doctors and hospitals could concentrate on treatment instead of spending their time fighting with insurance companies.

Which takes us back to the other big issue Sen. Sanders campaigned on- campaign finance reform. No serious reform of the medical insurance industry is likely to succeed until we find a way to stop deep pocketed special interests from buying political influence.

And we in Howard County have a way to start that ball rolling. Call Howard County Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty’s office (410-313-2001) and tell her to please vote to approve Council Bill 30, which is now pre-filed for introduction April 3.   And please come to the council’s public hearing April 19 to show your support!

This bill will change the way candidates for county council and county executive are elected, and could help spark change at a grassroots level to cut out big money special interests and encourage more ordinary citizens to get involved, both as candidates and as active donors.

Howard’s voters approved this idea last November at the polls, and this bill will lay out the law to put it into action, starting with the 2022 elections. Candidates who voluntarily choose to participate will agree not to take any donations over $250, and the county, from public taxpayer funds,  will match the first $150 they get in varying proportions. That means good candidates can run without $4,000 donations from developers, builders, engineers, zoning lawyers and other big players, including unions,

Estimates are it will cost the county about $600,000 a year, a true bargain considering the effect the law will have in strengthening our democracy, and in providing a model for small donor reforms higher up the political food chain. Montgomery County is preparing to use this same system in their 2018 county elections.

Larry Carson

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