For years, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers has been known for bringing what we have often considered very needed projects and money to eastern Kentucky.
But in voting for the Republican-pushed “Trump Care” last week, rather than bringing home the bacon, Congressman Rogers served his constituents a poison meal of spoiled chitlins. The tenderloin and the center-cut chops went to corporations, which will benefit by the ability to deny insurance coverage to their employees, and to insurers who will be able to charge astronomical premiums to people with pre-existing conditions.
The bill cuts $880 million from Medicaid, on which many in Letcher County rely, and it will likely result in the loss of nearly 100 jobs at Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation alone, which operates clinics across eastern Kentucky.
No Democrats voted for the bill, and 20 Republicans voted no as well.
Rogers tagged along with nearly all of the other Republicans in the House of Representatives, voting for a bill that hospitals, insurers, doctors and patient advocates alike hate. There is so much to hate in this bill that Republican Senators have already vowed to rewrite it entirely.
The only two Kentucky Congressmen to vote against it were District 3 US Rep. John Yarmuth (D, Louisville), and District 4 US Rep. Thomas Massie (R, Vanceburg).
Kentucky’s other four representatives marched in lock step to pass the measure, which the Congressional Budget Office had not even finished analyzing when Speaker Paul Ryan called for a vote.
The bill is similar to an earlier version that Republican leadership pulled from consideration after the CBO estimated it would cost 24 million Americans their health insurance. The Trump White House, which supported the bill and twisted arms in Congress to get it passed, estimated even more would lose insurance – 26 million.
This bill appears poised to have similar ill effects, denying coverage to sick people all over the United States, and especially in eastern Kentucky, where lung cancer rates are up to 80 percent higher than in 1980. Six of 10 counties with the highest cancer death rates in the nation are here, in Rogers’s district, one recent study shows.
For 37 years, Rogers has represented eastern Kentucky. He has proven himself to be better than this. Yet, when the vote was over, Rogers could be seen celebrating with other Republican House members in a video of President Trump’s speech lauding it as a victory.
The question is, a victory for whom? Certainly not sick people. Certainly not Republican members of Congress who must now face voters to explain why they want to take away their insurance coverage. Rogers had the opportunity to talk to residents about their concerns, but held not one town hall meeting that we’re aware of to hear how the Affordable Care Act has helped his people. The people who voted for him. The people who put him where he is, and kept him there since 1980.
We are now in the rare and discouraging position of relying on Senator Mitch McConnell to stop this partisan insanity. Perhaps we will be surprised. We fear we won’t.