Jason Westin And The Children’s Health Insurance Program

Last year Blue America looked carefully at the race in the west Houston congressional district held by Paul Ryan rubber stamp John Culberson. The district, which went from a pretty red area with a PVI of R+13 in 2015 voted 48.5% to 47.1% for Clinton (after giving Romney a 59.9-38.6% win over Obama) and now has a more manageable R+7 PVI. There's more than one good candidate running for the nomination to take on Culberson but the best candidate with the best chance of beating Culberson in the general election is award-winning cancer researcher and doctor Jason Westin. Blue America endorsed him. Today we asked him to give us his perspective on the GOP sabotage of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Technically, Paul Ryan and his rubber stamps like Culberson have allowed the funding for the crucial program-- crucial for millions of children and their families-- to expire in September. Now states-- Connecticut and Colorado were the first two-- are starting to inform families there is no more money left for treatment. A new Congressional Budget Office report shows it would be effectively cost-free to fund the program for the next decade and Ryan has still done nothing. By the end of February half the states in the country will have no more money for the program unless Congress acts.

Goal ThermometerPlease take a look at Dr. Westin's guest post below. The Take Back Texas ActBlue thermometer on the right is a simple way you can contribute to Jason's grassroots campaign. You'll find him-- and other progressives-- running in Texas this year. Even $5 and $10 contributions add up and help beat back the corporate flood of money that has kept characters like Culberson in office and serving the interests of the corporations and wealthy families who have subsidized his political career for years. Jason is running a grassroots campaign. Last cycle, Culberson spent $1,193,411 to defeat a conservative oily Democrat, James Cargas, who is running again and who spent just $62,159. This cycle a very different race is shaping up and, besides Culberson, 4 Democrats have already raised over $100,000. Dr. Westin has raised $261,590 compared to Culberson's $640,744. In a wave election, challengers don't need to raise as much as the incumbent but they do need enough money to effectively get out their message. Please consider tapping on that thermometer and doing what you can.

Medicaid Work Requirement And CHIP
-by Dr. Jason Westin

Why are Mr. Trump the GOP allowing states to require a job to receive Medicaid? Because they are "all in" that healthcare is a privilege-- there is no other explanation. They are wrong. I learned in my first days in medical school that Healthcare is a human right.

Almost 20 years ago during medical school, I volunteered at and eventually helped lead the Equal Access Clinic, a student run center to give care to those who had no access. Most were hard working people who knew they were sick, but could not afford care. Those who did not work were unable due to mental or physical illness. There were no people seeing us because they were lazy or trying to "game the system." They came to us for help, because they knew if they didn't get care, eventually they'd get really sick and end up in the ER or worse. They were constantly fearful of what would happen next, and if they'd be able to support their family.

When we helped them with blood pressure or diabetes meds, they were so grateful, I can still see their smiles almost 20 years later. The medications we gave them were helpful, but the true reason for their gratitude was being seen by another human being as worthy, that someone cared. They walked around everyday knowing they were a ticking time bomb and that no one would help them-- and that takes a real toll on how you perceive your own worth. It hardens people-- it makes them withdraw. When we reached out and said "you matter to me," they could barely contain their joy.

The idea that people who need Medicaid are freeloaders is a common misconception. The majority of Medicaid recipients work but don't have healthcare benefits or earn so little that they still qualify.

For the few on Medicaid who aren't working, almost all have a valid reason. Those who don't have a reason listed are only 3%, not of the total, but of the 40% who aren't working. That's right-- we're talking about 1.2% of Medicaid recipients.

This is the target of this rule change, 1.2%. Seriously. If that's all they are targeting, why make a big deal of this? Because the consequences will be widespread. Studies show Medicaid expansion actually reduced the number of unemployed. By making it harder to get access, this will backfire and result in more people falling through the cracks. Their approach is backward, and is clearly aimed at reducing the size of Medicaid not by helping people get to work, but by deeming them ineligible.

How could this play out? An example: A 45 year old mother of three has bad asthma. She needs medication to avoid a crisis and so she can work. If she loses her job, she wouldn't qualify for Medicaid as she would be hard pressed to prove she isn't able bodied, she just had a job! Thus, she and her family would be stuck in a spiral. Too well to be "ill or disabled," but too sick to actually work. This is what "health care is a privilege" can do.

Another example of "health care is a privilege" is the debate over the Children's Health Insurance Plan, or CHIP. I'm running for Congress against the vulnerable John Culberson in TX-07. Mr. Culberson has a lot of dangerous opinions, but it surprised even me to learn that he refuses to support insurance for 9 million poor children. Does he want them to work?

It comes down to this: Does America believe healthcare is a right or a privilege? Are we ok with allowing preventable deaths and kids to go without care? I'm not. I'm running for Congress to fight back for people like my patients.

How can we do that? I believe that a single payer system like Medicare for all is the best way for us to fulfill that healthcare as a human right. The system we have now has been cobbled together with no clear organization, like building a car by designing one part at a time. It’s not a surprise that some parts just don’t work well with the others. When there is no overall strategy, you’re just making the best of a bad situation. The Affordable Care Act tried to improve some of the parts that were most in need of repairs, but it wasn’t able to guarantee coverage, and now without the individual mandate it’s weakened further still. The Gallup poll asked "do you think it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage?" For the past three years, the majority said that it is the responsibility of the government-- and that position keeps gaining strength. In 2017, 56% said yes vs. 42% that said no. This is clear: The American people are increasingly coming to support my core belief: Healthcare is a human right, and that the only way we can fulfill this obligation is with a single payer system like Medicare for all.

These attacks by Trump and his enablers in Congress on earned benefits like Medicaid and on innocent children with CHIP show what they believe: healthcare is a privilege. Candidate Trump said he wouldn’t let people "die on the streets" if elected-- and Ted Cruz mocked him for that position. Sadly but not surprisingly, after the election Mr. Trump has seemingly moved away from this pledge. We can do better than their heartless approach, and by electing people who know these issues first hand, we will.

I’ve gotten so mad about this attack on our care that I’ve decided to do something about it. I’m running for Congress to fight back for people like my patients. I’m in a flappable district running against a Trump Rubber Stamp named John Culberson. I can actually win, and make a real difference for our healthcare system. But many have asked-- don't we need you to fight cancer? Wouldn't we be wasting your talents in DC? I can do so much more for my patients, for healthcare, in Congress than in the clinic. When I take care of a patient, they receive benefit, but it doesn't help anyone else. When I write a clinical trial, if it succeeds I can help thousands of people by developing a new treatment. In Congress, I could help millions.

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