A Chat with Lindsey Graham

Lindsey Graham

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Here in South Carolina, Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint are our senators.  One can understand, therefore, why many consider Graham to be a moderate.  Last night I received a Tele-Town Hall call from Graham.  This nifty process allows callers to join a conference call where they can ask questions of their representatives.

I suspect that my number was selected not randomly but rather based on the fact that my father (with whom I share a phone) votes reliably republican.  My suspicion was based on the unanimous adulation for all things conservative from the others on the call.

I wanted to share my situation of not being able to receive health insurance because of a pre-existing condition and to challenge his support of repealing health care reform.  So I pressed zero to queue up to ask a question.  As I waited, another caller asked about “Obamacare.”  She said that although she is not prone to believe in conspiracies she had heard that her husband’s small business would lose its ability to receive a tax deduction for its cost of buying health insurance for its employees.

I was hoping that he would reassure this woman and challenge that rumor.  Graham has a reputation for not always towing the party line.  Earlier in the call I liked that he had not been baited by some residual “Drill Here, Drill Now” folks; instead he emphasized Boone Pickens‘ natural gas program to gain energy independence for America.

Boy, was I disappointed.  He basically said that she was right and that she should believe everything bad she’s ever heard about this bill.  He went on to throw another conspiracy theory on her bonfire: he claimed that the low price of the penalty against companies who don’t offer health care is designed to force everyone onto a public option.

He added that the bill was so long and complicated that it’s hard for anyone to know what’s in it.  I suppose this was his cover for giving misleading information to his constituents.  (I’m one of those who happen to think it is a senator’s job to understand what’s in a bill that s/he is voting on.) I don’t claim to be an expert on this bill, but all of my research suggests that in fact small businesses would receive a tax credit to help them afford health insurance.

Now, even if he wanted to maintain his support for total repeal of health care reform, he could have used the opportunity to tell this woman the truth but explain that there are other problems with this bill that makes him want to start all over.  It would have been an opportunity to press his talking points about what’s wrong with this bill.

This interchange made me so angry, that I decided I was in no frame of mind to speak politely or even rationally, so I disconnected from the call.  Instead, I sent him an email with my thoughts.

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  • Jim Wheeler  On January 27, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    I share your frustration, John, and I think it’s commendable that you still think enough of the system to send your e-mail.

    There are doubtless problems with the ACA that need fixing, the major one of which seems to be a complete failure to deal with the spiraling costs of health care. But, just as cancer is not simple and not one disease with one cause, health-care cost is not simple either. One thing however was made crystal-clear in my mind by an ABC News item yesterday: leaving health care to the insurance industry without government regulation would be disastrous.

    Here is a synopsis of the story, to the best of my recollection. A man with cancer had retained his coverage from his former employer through the COBRA program. That government edict says that even though you lose your job for some reason you may retain whatever health-care coverage you had through that employer by paying the total premium yourself, i.e., the part your employer was paying and your own. As you doubtless know, this is often advantageous because employers have leverage to negotiate lower premiums in group contracts.

    So, this guy was getting ready for a stem-cell treatment that he hoped was going to save his life when he was notified by his insurance company, Ceridian, that his insurance had been cancelled because he had failed to pay the entire premium on his last payment. It turns out that his wife, purely through simple error, had written the check 2 cents less than the proper amount. That’s right, 2 pennies short.

    ABC News heard about it and got on the phone. After being stone-walled for some time, they finally were able to talk to someone, but the reporter was told there was nothing to be done. He finally got a management type on the line and the company eventually “came to an agreement” with the client. The reporter then asked, “Was Mr. X offered an apology when you told him his insurance was restored?” The manager said, “Why? We were simply following our procedures.”

    There you have it. Without regulation, your health care will be run by Gordon Gekko and without any provision for pre-existing conditions. Patients are merely numbers and money is king. After all, it’s just business, right?

    The GOP wants to scrap ACA. I say, fine, fix it, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. I await with interest to see what they come up with.


    Jim W.

  • jwhester  On January 28, 2011 at 12:50 am

    Wow that’s great! Thanks for the tip about that story. Here’s the link for those interested: http://abcnews.go.com/US/cancer-patient-vietnam-vet-ron-flanagan-loses-insurance/story?id=12768088.

    I was on COBRA myself before the 18 months ran out.

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