Where’s Walden? Taking away our healthcare.

Friday, March 10th, 2017

Dear ROP Friend,

For years, the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the USA has been medical bills. However, since the Affordable Care Act was activated in 2014, 20 million Americans have been able to afford health insurance, many for the first time in their lives. The law isn’t perfect. In fact, the part of the Act that has worked the best, the expansion of Medicaid to cover millions of uninsured low-income people, clearly shows that “single-payer” public health insurance is superior to private insurance plans. Still, a big majority of Americans now support the Affordable Care Act because they or their loved ones have gotten much needed help.

As part of the permanent political war in Washington DC, Republicans have made REPEALING the Affordable Care Act a top priority. In public, they have criticized every flaw in the plan — not enough people are covered, insurance premiums are too high, and out-of-pocket “deductible” expenses are too large. In private, to their billionaire political funders who have much to gain from skyrocketing healthcare costs and privatization, the Republican leadership is on record with a different kind of complaint: Americans cannot be allowed to get used to an “entitlement” like affordable healthcare.

Since last November, repealing the Affordable Care Act has become Congress’ #1 priority. Thousands of protesters across the country and across Oregon have made it clear that just yanking healthcare away from people is unacceptable, so a new “plan” must be written. The man in charge of writing the new plan is Oregon’s lone Republican Congressperson, Greg Walden, who represents District 2, which covers the entirety of the state East of the Cascades and part of Southwestern Oregon.

Walden has sold himself to his constituents as a powerful Washington player who can get good things for his district — but now he is using this powerful position as Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to gravely damage his own people in District 2, as well as across the US. Walden’s new plan will make healthcare premiums and deductibles more expensive for older and poorer people. Worse yet, it begins to eliminate coverage for mental healthcare and drug treatment under Medicaid. In three years, it starts to severely limit funds available for Medicaid, threatening the whole system with collapse. And finally, by cutting healthcare taxes for wealthy people and medical corporations while allowing healthy, younger people to opt out of coverage, it undermines the whole system for helping Americans afford health insurance. And that may be the whole point.

While people across the US will be hurt by Greg Walden’s plan, rural districts will especially suffer. Walden’s own district has had more new people enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan — Medicaid — than any other district in the USA! One in three are on OHP. By undermining Medicaid, thousands of low income people in District 2 will soon lose their health coverage, including coverage for mental health services and drug and alcohol treatment. Part of the “plan” is to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, threatening family planning services and health screening everywhere in rural Oregon. Rural hospitals are the most financially strapped hospitals, and by gutting Medicaid and making private health insurance unaffordable, the rural hospital system will collapse as thousands return to using the extremely expensive Emergency Room as their sole source of medical care.

We must remember that Walden, in his position as chair of the House Energy and Commerce committee, is responsible for not only the injury he does to rural Oregonians but to rural people across this nation. There are few people and organizations to speak up for rural people, and that’s why our voices at ROP are so critically important. Who speaks for the poor, the elderly, young children, and people with disabilities? We do.

Final decisions about the plan will be made in the next few weeks, maybe even next week because the vote is being fast-tracked. The good news is that, since the election, people have been fighting back fiercely. Thousands have confronted their representatives at town halls all over the US. In Walden’s district, Indivisible groups have mounted an incredible resistance, with hundreds calling and rallying weekly. If you haven’t already, please join the fight!

Find your Member of Congress, and how many folks in your District are enrolled under the Affordable Care Act: http://www.contactingcongress.org/

If you live in Walden’s District (click here to check if you aren’t sure!):

  • Call and email his offices! Let them know where you live. Tell them that you oppose the new healthcare plans proposed by Walden and Speaker Paul Ryan. Tell them any effort to make premiums more expensive,deductibles higher, cut Medicaid, mental health services, drug treatment, family planning, or ANY services to rural Oregon is completely unacceptable.
  • Write a letter to your local paper.

Congressional staff are VERY interested in these letters and track them closely. Letters to the editor are very important right now!

Contact information for Representative Greg Walden:

If you live outside of Walden’s District:
Walden has been clear that the only calls that matter to him come from his District. Thousands of his genuine constituents have been calling for weeks.

    • Instead of calling Walden personally, look through your contacts list and Christmas card lists
      for people in District 2, and ask them to call!
      Some of the towns Walden “represents” include
      Hood River, Bend, Sisters, Madras, Medford, Grants Pass, Ashland, Klamath Falls, Pendleton, La Grande, Baker City, Burns, Ontario, and points in between. This is a highly effective way to expand the calls.
    • If you visit communities in District 2, write a letter to the local paper. Say how much you enjoy that community, and how concerned you are about the future of healthcare for that community, and for everyone.
    • You may not be a voter in OR District 2, but chances are you are a contributor to Walden without knowing it.
      Comcast is one of Walden’s largest donors. If you are a Comcast customer, email them and tell them that your healthcare is on the line and you do NOT appreciate their support of Walden.

The American Hospital Association is another top contributor. That is why it’s so important to contact your local hospital and ask them to oppose these attacks on affordable healthcare. Mention the American Hospital Association’s support for Walden!

Start talking! Start researching!
Make people aware of this plan by talking to your family, friends, and neighbors. Seek out people in health services, especially rural hospitals, and ask them what impact they think this plan will have. How many are currently on OHP, and how many will be lost with the new plan? Make sure that everyone understands that this is a statewide and national issue, not just Walden’s district, but we need to focus on him in this important moment because he is the author of the healthcare plan that will leave so many people without care.

We have dozens of conversations with rural Oregonians daily, and we are hearing that this healthcare disaster is making many folks who voted for Trump regret their decision. This is an incredible opportunity to reach out beyond the choir to our neighbors who may be experiencing buyer’s remorse! We need as many people as possible making calls and mobilizing now, including those who we might not have guessed would be on our side.

Get together with you local human dignity group and plan a local campaign. This message mentions several ways to make an impact, but we are confident that you can come up with many new smart ways to pressure Walden to quit messing with our healthcare! Remember, the people have the ultimate power, and the last word!

Cara, Mike, Suzanne, Jess, Grace, Hannah, and the ROP Team