I recently held a series of health care listening sessions around the district where I had an opportunity to connect with community members and reflect on their stories and share my thoughts and observations.
What was made even more clear to me during these conversations was how truly indicative the national polling results are in terms of the reality and importance around these issues. The advances of the Affordable Care Act brought 21 million people health insurance coverage but has left so much unresolved. 30 million people remain without any form of insurance or government program while seeking services and receiving bills that destabilize health care for both providers and for taxpayers. Outrageous prescription drug costs force people to make hard choices, especially those on fixed incomes. Shockingly high medical bills, rising premiums and deductibles all top the list of legitimate concerns.
As if those problems weren’t bad enough, did you know that in addition to what you pay in deductibles, premiums, Medicare coverage or prescription drugs, vision, hearing and dental, each taxpayer pays an average of $8,000 per their general federal taxes to cover health care costs? Alongside those concerns are the real stories of people dying because they cannot afford basic drugs such as insulin or are being hounded to their wit’s end by medical debt collectors. In short, the United States has the most expensive, ineffective, and inefficient system in the developed world.
Why is that? Political corruption.
For decades now, special interests and corporate lobbyists have been allowed to dictate the terms of our health care with no concern for the well-being of those who need it most. Health insurance companies are not only the most profitable in the U.S., they are among the most aggressive, plentiful donors to members of Congress. Tom Reed, my Republican opponent, is a poster-boy for this sad state of affairs. Health insurance companies trade campaign cash for the explicit promise that representatives like him will oppose the reform we so desperately need.
It goes even deeper. Do voters in the 23rd District know that the private business Mr. Reed had before and during his time in Congress was medical debt collection? Is that a conflict of interest? Yes. That is what the Congressional Ethic Committee thought too, advising him to divest from it in 2014. Why did it take him five more years to do so? Not coincidentally, Tom Reed has voted against affordable health care measures every time they have come across his desk — more than 70 times! Just last month he voted against a bill that would have given Medicare and Medicaid the authority to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for the best prices on prescription drugs. Voters recognize a phony when they see one. That is political corruption at its finest.
While it is true that Democrats are not united on exactly what plan will remedy this situation, we all do agree that health care should be affordable, available, and universal. And the truth is that many moderate Republicans and unaffiliated voters agree as well. That perspective puts me in mind of Franklin Roosevelt’s approach to the complex challenges of the Great Depression. He was, rightfully, more concerned about the dangers of inaction than of implementing an imperfect plan. He offered, “It is common sense to take a method and try it … above all, try something.” After two and a half years of talking with people, I can unequivocally say that we want our representatives to ‘do something’. Big or small, they want and deserve marked progress from the next Congress.
In the spirit of Roosevelt, let’s try a manageable, bite-sized approach to health care reform. Rather than getting stuck on labels or scoring political points, let’s unite Americans behind pragmatic, bipartisan action that will have a major impact on people’s lives now:
- Let’s make certain that health insurance companies will never discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions again.
- Let’s give Medicare and Medicaid administrators the authority to negotiate better drug prices.
- Let’s curb drug companies from invading your living room every night with poorly regulated ads.
- Let’s lower the age of eligibility for Medicare down to 50 or 55 to cover more people in a population with very high rates of uninsured.
- Let’s unify and simplify coverage by including dental, vision, hearing, mental health and substance abuse and drug treatment — these are all elements of our health, they are not optional luxuries for the privileged.
These are just some of the thoughts that come out of conversations with people around the district. Not only will this path bring about immediate changes for people who need help now, but they will result in increased coverage and will bring about a simpler, more unified healthcare system that is an important step in the right direction for our country.
I want to be your representative in Congress and bring what I learned from the people in the 23rd district into federal action. Tom Reed has had his chance over ten years in Congress and failed to get behind substantive health care reform. Time is up.
We need a change in this district, and I would be honored if voters would give me a chance to represent their very real interests in Congress.
To learn more about Tracy Mitrano for New York’s 23rd Congressional District campaign, visit www.mitrano2020.com.