Lindsey Graham finally responds on ACA shutdown

Two weeks ago, fearing the impending shutdown, I sent my congressman and senators an email about the ACA and why it was important to me.  I got e-mails from all three of them — Tim Scott and Joe Wilson both sent me on topic responses, but I just got a form letter from Lindsey Graham saying that he’d respond later.  And he did, finally.

I am not sure what I expected, but I figured if it took him this long to send me an e-mail in response, it’d actually acknowledge what my opinion on the issue at hand is or give some indication that he (or someone on his staff) at least skimmed my letter.

Dear Ashley:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the vote to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  I have always opposed the ACA and proudly voted in support of the House passed bill to fund the government and defund the ACA.  Unfortunately, with Democrats controlling the Senate, they were able to remove the defunding language without a single Republican vote.  The ACA has been and will remain a financial disaster for our nation.  For this reason I will continue to work towards repealing the ACA.  As the Senate considers this issue I will keep your comments in mind.

My job as your United States Senator is to represent your interests.  While I cannot guarantee we will see eye-to-eye on every issue, I can guarantee you I will give your thoughts and opinions the consideration they deserve.  Hearing directly from you about the problems facing our nation helps me better serve constituents like you and the people of South Carolina as a whole.  I hope you will always feel free to pick up the phone, write, or email about this, or any other issue, that comes before the Senate.

If you are online, I would also encourage you to visit my website — http://lgraham.senate.gov — as it has information on the most recent activities before the Senate.  While there you can sign up for my e-mail newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages which will provide the latest information, and my up-to-the-minute views on the major issues facing our nation.

Thank you again for taking time from your busy day to contact my office.  I look forward to hearing from you again in the future and truly appreciate the opportunity to represent your interests in the United States Senate.

You’ve had many opportunities to represent my interests, Senator, I look forward to the day when you actually do.

South Carolina ACA/Obamacare Responses: A Lesson in Communication Strategy

Yesterday, I sent letters to my representatives about how excited I was about Obamacare finally being implemented and how they weren’t pro-life if they stopped it from coming into effect. Today they responded.

Three different politicians representing me, three different approaches to communication strategy.  We’ve got the impersonal and avoidant form letter, the detailed policy concerns reply, and the I acknowledge your concerns as valid and appreciate your input email.  I am surprised to find that the last on the list, from Joe “you lie” Wilson, is actually the one I most positively responded to while Lindsey “Butters” Graham, who I hold in the least contempt, sent me a disappointing brush off.  Perhaps I will hear more from him.

Form letter from Senator Lindsey Graham:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me. I appreciate the opportunity to hear from you.

In spite of the high volume of mail I receive daily, I look forward to reviewing your correspondence and providing a personal response as soon as possible.

As we continue our work in the 113th Congress, I look forward to supporting our troops in the War on Terror, repairing our economy and creating jobs, strengthening Social Security, lowering the tax burden on American families, and making the federal government more accountable and efficient.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of further assistance to you or your family, and if you need immediate assistance, please call my office at 202-224-5972. If your correspondence pertains to a scheduling request, please fax your request to (202) 224-3808.

Sincerely,

Lindsey Graham

A longer, topic specific form letter from Senator Tim Scott, which also includes my name:

Dear Miss Miller,

Thank you for writing me to request more information regarding a conservative alternative to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). I appreciate your input on this important issue and the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.

As you may know, I am a staunch opponent of the PPACA, having voted multiple times to repeal the law, and I have consistently criticized President Obama’s implementation strategy for providing special favors and exemptions while ignoring Congressional intent and the rule of law. Recently, the President has challenged conservatives like myself on the issue of coming up with alternative plans rather than just fighting to dismantle his law. On August 9, 2013, at a press conference the President said, “There’s not even a pretense that [Republicans are] going to replace it with something better.”

In answering this challenge, I first want to mention that conservatives in Congress and the Republican party in general have not been without ideas for replacing the PPACA. In fact we have a history of bringing market-oriented alternatives to the table. The most notable plan, the Patients’ Choice Act of 2009, was put forth by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep Devin Nunes (R-CA).

Personally, I have embraced some ideas that address some key problems in our health care system. By starting with medical tort reform, which has seen great success in states like Texas, and moving toward a more competitive environment that allows health insurance companies to sell their products across state lines, I believe we could really see some significant improvements in the cost of care. Additionally, I believe that policies to protect high risk individuals from being excluded from the system or denied health insurance coverage will be critical to improving access to care. Beyond those initial steps, I would like to see more general movement toward a market-oriented health system without all of the excessive regulations that drive up costs, as we are currently seeing in the PPACA exchanges. Private health insurance exchanges are currently allowing companies to offer more options to their employees at a lower cost to companies and often to the employees as well. The competition and cost-savings that private exchanges allow will soon be contrasted by the government-run exchanges that are set to go live on October 1, 2013.

A more general issue beyond these particular options is the importance of controlling costs. I believe in fighting to make sure everyone has access to quality care, but, as health care costs continue rise, such access has become increasingly out of reach for many families. That is why the debate over solutions should focus on actually reducing costs, instead of simply shifting the burden to a different party. The solution is to get the government out of the way. The regulatory burden and mandates that the PPACA will place on providers, businesses and families will only serve to increase costs and reduce access to care.

While I cannot claim to have an answer for every problem facing our country, I can assure you that I have spent a lot of time considering alternatives to the President’s health care law. Health care reform will be one of the defining issues of our time, so it is critical that we implement plans that will work, not just for the short term, but for future generations as well.

Again, thank you for sharing your perspective with me; I hope that you will continue to do so in the future. If I can ever be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me or a member of my staff.

For more information, please visit my website at www.scott.senate.gov and subscribe to my monthly e-newsletter. I also encourage you to follow me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SenatorTimScott and Twitter: www.twitter.com/SenatorTimScott for daily updates.

Sincerely,

Tim Scott
United States Senator

This communication is being sent via e-mail in order to save taxpayer dollars. If you would like a written letter, please notify our office. The information contained herein is intended for the use of the individual or entity named above. Please do not tamper with or alter this communication in any way.

A shorter response from Representative Joe Wilson that acknowledges my support of ACA and mostly just tries to assure me that my input is valued (see bolded text), while going off on a bit of a non-sequitur about how the bill is being implemented:

September 25, 2013Miss Ashley Miller
3001 Blossom St
Columbia, SC 29205-2605

Dear Ashley,

Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding your support for the continued implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).  I appreciate your taking the time to contact me.

I understand your concerns and welcome your interest in this matter.  As you are aware, the President signed this piece of legislation into law on March 23, 2010.  Since that time, much of the implementing authority has been passed to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as well as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), with a majority of provisions set to take effect at the beginning of 2014.

Until that time, please be assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind should legislation pertaining to this issue come before me on the House floor during the 113th Congress.

It is an honor to represent the people of the Second Congressional District of South Carolina, and I value your input.

If I may be of further assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,
(signed)

So there you go.

Republicans in DC: Stop claiming to care about life

As you know, I am from South Carolina, one of the worst states in the union, politically speaking. Occasionally I get really angry about some stupid something people who claim me as a constituent are doing in DC, supposedly on my behalf.

STOP TRYING TO SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT

Sorry. I have spent literally my entire adult life wishing I had access to insurance that would cover my pre-existing conditions, women’s healthcare, and mental healthcare. I am not exaggerating when I say that this has been one of the most important concerns in my life. Because I developed severe allergies and asthma when I was 7, insurance and medical costs have driven so many of my life choices. Other people have had it far worse than I do, I don’t claim any special claim to bad circumstances, but I tell you the fact that, as of January 1, I will have, regardless of my employment situation, access to full healthcare coverage is such a relief that it makes me want to cry.

And *my* representatives are participating in these shame shutdown shenanigans because they want to take that away from me.  That makes me angry.  So I wrote a letter to Joe “You Lie” Wilson, against whom I ran a write-in campaign that may have earned me votes into the double-digits, Lindsey Graham, and Tim Scott.  By the time I got to Tim Scott, I had perhaps over-flourished it all, but you can judge for yourself.

Senator Scott,

I am really struggling with the behavior of Republicans in Washington, DC right now. Shutting down the government in what appears to be an attempt to hurt the poorest of your constituents.

I am a 29 year old woman who works a full-time job, two part-time jobs, and is in school full-time as well. Despite this, the only insurance I have access to currently is individual insurance, which can deny me for my pre-existing asthma. Furthermore, it is impossible to get individual maternity coverage in South Carolina. Unless you are part of a group plan, you cannot get maternity coverage at all in this state. If I get pregnant it is far more economically feasible for me to abort than to have a child, and not because I am not willing to pay for coverage, but because out of pocket a birth can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

If you were honestly pro-life, you’d support women getting access to that care. If you were honestly pro-life, you’d support everyone getting access to healthcare.

This is all changing on January 1 thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Starting then, I will have access to care regardless of my childhood asthma and that care will cover maternity. I have spent my entire life wishing that I’d have access to that some day — and now Republicans are trying to take that away from me. It feels like you’re playing political football with my ability to afford having a family.

I am not some lazy bum and I am not looking for handouts, I just think that I shouldn’t have to work so hard to still face catastrophic bankruptcy if something wonderful like pregnancy should befall me. Offer me an alternate plan, offer me a promise that South Carolina insurance providers will have to offer maternity coverage and coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. Or stop claiming to care about life.

Regards, Ashley

I mean, I might have upped the pathos dial a bit much, but goddammit, could you just care about people instead of politics for once?  Also, how infuriating is it that South Carolina is not the only state in which it is literally impossible for a woman to get individual maternity coverage!  HOW MESSED UP IS THAT

Healthcare win: Obamacare survives SCOTUS

The Supreme Court ruled today on the Obamacare provisions and upheld it almost in its entirety.  I am surprised by this, I was fully expecting to be writing a post right now saying just the opposite.  Even more surprising is that Chief Justice Roberts was in the majority of the opinion and Kennedy wrote the dissent.  If anything could be done to restore some small amount of faith in the judicial branch of the government, this was it.

Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the ACA to expand the availability of health care, and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use. What Congress is not free to do is to penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding.

The only thing they’ve really changed is that Congress doesn’t have the ability to punish states for non-compliance by taking away Medicaid funding.  Everything else stands based on Congress’ right to impose taxes — the opinion seems to say that the mandate is functionally a tax, and therefore Constitutional.

Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it.

I’m still waiting for an online copy. http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-393c3a2.pdf