Thursday, December 31, 2009

Will Congressman John Boccieri Back Insurance Companies Over People?

In 2006 Congressman John Boccieri, then a State Senator, came to Medina County to ask local Democrats for their support. He assured several of them that he supported health care reform. Based in part on those assurances, many of Medina County's Democrats took the time to canvass for him, to campaign with him, and to sponsor house parties for him. Many others gave him campaign contributions. This effort paid off with Congressman Boccieri not only winning the 16TH Congressional District, but also winning Medina County.

Many of these same Democrats were deeply disappointed when he voted against the House's version of health care. Not only did he vote against the House's health care bill, but he voted for the Stupak amendment which imposed restrictions on the use of subsidies contained in the bill to purchase health insurance policies which provided abortion services. (His vote against the health care reform bill, but for the Stupak amendment was actually more conservative than the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Conference backed the health care reform bill once the Stupak amendment was included.)

Recently Congressman John Boccieri met with a group of local Medina County Democrats to discuss his health care vote. His explanation of why he had voted against the health care was interesting.

Initially, when people called his office right after the vote to complain about his vote, his staff told them that Congressman Boccieri was concerned about the cost of the health care bill. When he met with the Medina County Democrats, his explanation was different.

During the meeting, he didn't mention cost, but talked about how the House bill would affect a particular company in Stark County. He claimed that the House bill could cost 600 jobs in Stark County, although he didn't really explain how that would happen. He also regurgitated a favorite GOP talking point about how the mandates in the bill could lead to people being fined without seeming to understand that the bill has to contain mandates to get enough uninsured Americans to buy insurance to make sure that premiums stay relatively low.

When asked what the bill would have to contain to get his support when it came out of a House-Senate conference committee for a final vote, he wouldn't answer. When asked why Medina County Democrats should continue to trust him, he didn't have an answer. He repeatedly told us how he was sacrificing time with his family to meet with us on a Sunday afternoon, even though he had chosen the date and the time. In short, he was defensive, evasive, and condescending.

Here's a news flash for Congressman Boccieri: you can side with the insurance companies on this bill, or you can side with the people, but you can't do both. You can either vote to stop insurance companies from denying people with pre-existing conditions health insurance or you can vote to allow them to continue such discrimination. You can either vote for a bill that removes caps from medical insurance coverage, or you can vote to continue to allow caps and the accompanying medical bankruptcies. You can either vote to help expand health insurance coverage to 31 million more Americans, or you can vote for the status quo. What you can't do is vote for the status quo and then tell us that we should continue to support you anyway. It's time for Congressman Boccieri to choose between people or insurance companies.

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