Letter to the Editor: Dear Ron, This Is Why We’re Skittish

In the Great Senate Health Care Debate, Ron Johnson came out as one of the holdouts. He said it was moving too fast. He talked about the need to keep premiums affordable. In short, he said some good things. But, then again, so did Mike Gallagher (Rep. District 8) a couple of months ago. When the first AHCA [American Health Care Act] was pulled from a vote in the House, Gallagher suggested he would not have voted for it, citing the harms that would come to the people of his district. Nevertheless, when the subsequent (and harsher) version of the AHCA came up for a vote, he voted “aye.” So, yeah, we’re pretty skittish about the upcoming Senate vote, at least here in District 8.

Part of this is because Mr. Johnson is reported to believe that the BCRA [Better Care Reconciliation Act] (the Senate’s version of the AHCA) isn’t conservative enough…that it doesn’t roll back enough of the Obamacare/ACA mandates. This is déjà vu, all over again – exactly what happened in the House. Is the bill going to become more draconian to appease the Senators in the Far Right? Will it eliminate coverage for pre-existing conditions? Is that what Mr. Johnson is looking for?

Another part of the skittishness is because Mr. Johnson hasn’t adequately defined what he means by saying an acceptable bill must be “in the best interest for folks in Wisconsin” (Tweeted June 24, 2017). That can mean a lot of different things, including believing that huge tax breaks for the wealthiest people in the state will somehow be good for the rest of us. Will he vote for a bill that does not provide adequate subsidies to offset CBO predicted premium increases for those of us who are older, but not yet Medicare eligible? For my age group, the CBO estimates that our annual premiums under Obamacare would be $1,700; under the BCRA they would be between $13,000 and $16,000. Without subsidies, those premiums are not manageable for most of us.

The fact that the vote was delayed was a positive thing for those of us who do not support the bill. However, the delay also allows more time for outside interests to lobby (some would say bribe and/or threaten) senators in hopes of garnering “yes” votes. This certainly happened with the House vote, another cause for skittishness on the part of constituents. Will the wealthiest donors threaten to withdraw support for those who vote no? Pledge funding for future campaigns for a “yes” vote? No doubt, they will. I like to think that some senators are beyond that sort of “convincing” – yet, if it didn’t work, it wouldn’t happen. I hope Mr. Johnson is among those who are impervious to that sort of pressure, and will respond to his constituents.

So, forgive us if we’re skittish. But we’ve been there and done this before, and it didn’t turn out well for us. Let’s hope the Senate outcome really is in the “best interest for the folks of Wisconsin.”


Pam H. Jacobs

Brussels, Wis.

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