Monday, August 24, 2009

Pete Sessions on health care: tell the President

One of the reasons members of Congress conduct town hall meetings is to listen and compile a list of constituent concerns and take that information back to Washington on our behalf. But when a woman told Pete Sessions about the cost of her husband's liver transplant anti-rejection medicine, he inexplicably told her to go to one of Obama's town hall meetings and tell her problems to the President!

CBS-11 did a story about her, called Falling Through The Cracks Of Health Care Debate; our video and transcript (from the Irving town hall meeting) follows:

Constituent: Thank you for giving us an opportunity to discuss this issue.
Sessions: Yes, ma’am.
Constituent: And Congressman, I respect the fact that you have a family member with special needs, and you would do anything you can to make sure that that person in your family is taken care of. I want to tell you my story about someone in my family who I care deeply about, who’s falling through the cracks of our current system and why I think having a public option is so important. Can I do that?
Sessions: Yes, ma’am. Absolutely. That’s why you’ve been invited down…
Constituent: Thirteen years ago, my husband was diagnosed with liver failure. He was told he needed a transplant to live. Nine months later, he received his transplant. Now, if my story stopped there and was only about health care it would be a wonderful story about how our country is admired around the world for the type of health care we receive. However, my story is not about our health care. My story is about health coverage, pre-existing conditions, and falling through the cracks in the system as it stands. My husband’s a semiconductor engineer, he made six figures a year, we were as middle class as anybody wants to be. And last Fall, when the economy collapsed, he lost his job. Now, we had the choice of staying on COBRA, and at the time, as you recall, at that time was $1500.00 a month for our family.
Sessions: Yes, ma’am.
Constituent: Okay. His insurance just for him, if I took myself and my two children off, was going to be over $600.00. The medicine to keep a liver transplant alive, without insurance, was going to cost me $700 a month. Now, unemployment was only $1500 a month, and we still had rent, and food, and utilities and everything else. Now, when the new administration came in and the stimulus package came through, we were able to get our—for nine months—insurance reduced. But at the end of those nine months, we’re back up to $1500 and our unemployment is gonna run out. There are no jobs to be had, especially jobs with insurance. The only people that are hiring now are hiring contract labor. Contract labor, they’re not required to insure; it’s a loophole in the business system. Now, without the medication, my husband is going to die. We’re already lost our home, we had to sell our car, I’ve had to cut as many expenses as I can possibly cut, in order to keep my husband alive. Alive. It isn’t a matter of—y’know, people are saying, “Well, why don’t you just go get Medicare.” He doesn’t qualify for Medicare. He’s healthy! He’s been post transplant for almost—
Sessions: He’s probably not old enough—
Constituent: — fifteen years —
Sessions: —for Medicare.
Constituent: He’s 54 years old. He’s not old enough. So we are in this black hole where, y’know, without the public option, all this bill does is say everybody has to be covered. If there’s no cost savings on anybody from the…for the insurer, there’s no incentive to make the insurance companies cover us at the same rate that anybody else gets, and all I’m asking for—I’m not asking anybody to take their insurance away from them. I’m just saying I am an American citizen, I deserve the same amount of insurance that anybody else gets… (applause) …we pay taxes…
Sessions: Thank you, and I think you’ve spoken very well.
Constituent: And I truly would like to know, why aren’t you on this? Please.
Sessions: I’ll tell you why I’m not on the bill. I’m not on the bill because people need to speak to the President when he goes around the country and to say, “Mr. President, let’s not do a trillion six hundred billion dollar. Let’s aim where the problem is, and let’s help people and let’s go…(audio drowned out by applause)…this President…this President was told that in thirteen days, he spent more money than George Bush spent in two wars for seven years, Katrina and New York City with 9-11…(cheers and applause)…and…that a person who is gonna be President has to be responsible for the national debt that is taking place that is killing jobs in this country…(unintelligible exchange between Sessions and Constituent, drowned out by applause)…and this President needs to hear from you and others so that he goes back and does something about the problem, not over everybody in here and ruining Medicare. (Cheers and applause from audience). And I—I as a member of Congress am trying to say, I have—I have open town hall meetings. I initiated the meeting with Eddie Bernice Johnson. I openly will say to anybody, including the President, “Mr. President, listen to people, go do something about the problem, don’t try to take over a government run health care plan…(cheers and applause)…I have great empathy. I really do. It doesn’t take a lot for me to figure out, and I started my career working as a paperboy. I worked every day, never missed a day of work when I worked in the private sector and I’ve gotta work for a living now, too. And I know all but for probably five genes that any of us have that are wrong it could be us that would be there, too. I, too, understand that. I’m not a mean, cold-hearted person. But the American public is also kind and generous, but don’t pick on everybody. (applause) Go and find the problem. So I would say that a group of people who were here from all the organizations need to go back and do a huddle with the President, and the President is a great salesman. But he is getting his clock cleaned (wild cheers and applause obscure audio)…dialogue with the President. And I’m very open to having dialogue with anybody here. Please aim for the problem. I would love to have you say to the President, “Mr. President, what we’re trying to sell is not working.” It’s not! You just can’t argue that case. But you still have needs, and we still have a problem, and Sessions agrees with that. Let’s solve the problem. Thank you very much.


Nancy said...

This is so embarrassing, especially when compared with Joe Barton standing up for that woman in his district in front of those insurance execs. She's lucky to have a congressman who cares. Isn't there a Republican out there who's brave enough to challenge Pete Sessions in the primary? anyone.

Lisa said...

Nancy, didn't you say you knew somebody interested in running?

Nancy said...

He won't be old enough in time, Lisa. we were thinking it was 21 for some reason but it's 25.