Walden's health care votes would hurt his district

Congressman Greg Walden has been a chief architect of congressional efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to gut Medicaid and the Oregon Health Plan. That is why working families and small business owners in Bend and Medford took action recently to show him, again, that many people in his district oppose his efforts to strip them of life-saving health care services.

In fact, among majority-Republican districts nationally, his district has disproportionately benefited from the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion; in fact, 20 percent of adults in Oregon’s second district are enrolled in Medicaid. It is therefore more disturbing that he supports this bill despite knowing the people of his district have an awful lot to lose if it passes.

In response to his constituents raising their concerns about his vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to re-structure and cut funding to Medicaid, he had the following to say: "These latest stunts and claims (about cutting Medicaid) are misguided and untrue. Independent fact checkers made it clear that the legislation we passed in the House guaranteed current Medicaid recipients could continue on their coverage uninterrupted."

This statement is deliberately misleading. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, whose analysis has always been taken as fact by both sides of the aisle in Washington, estimated that the bill Walden voted for in May would strip 20 million Americans of health care, spike costs for millions more and reduce the overall quality of care. For small-business owners, who have always had a very difficult time finding and keeping affordable health care plans, this bill would have been a severe setback and a return to a time when large insurance corporations made all the rules.

The bill Walden supported also directly cut $800 billion from Medicaid over the next decade by ending the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, a program that provides coverage to 11 million low-income people, and by cutting federal funding for Medicaid by implementing a capped system. This would force states to make a dire choice: either cut back on health care for low-income people who are elderly, disabled, children or parents, or shift the cost of that coverage to our state budget, one that is already stretched thin. Either way, if the bill he voted for had passed, Oregon’s local economies, small businesses and residents would have suffered the consequences.

It’s also worth noting that the House bill he supported takes roughly $1 trillion over 10 years out of Medicaid, while also giving $600 billion in tax breaks to the rich and to corporations. Let us say that again: The bill he supported would cut life-saving health care programs for poor seniors, children and the disabled while giving tax breaks to people who do not need them. The majority of those individual tax cuts would have gone to the fewer than 1 percent of Americans who make over $1 million a year. And the wealthiest 400 Americans — whose average incomes exceed $300 million a year — would have gotten an average tax cut of $7 million a year each.

That's one major reason all these groups opposed this bill: the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Diabetes Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Hospital Association, the Catholic Hospital Association, the March of Dimes, AARP and others. Small-business owners learn early on how to add two plus two, and Greg Walden’s math just doesn’t add up when he says Medicaid wouldn’t be impacted.

Gutting federal funding for Medicaid would, without a doubt, disrupt coverage for current recipients and cost us all more. And even though the bill Walden voted for didn't pass in the end, the current federal budget proposals he will be asked to vote on include the recommendation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion and also make similarly devastating major cuts to Medicaid and Medicare through caps and privatization — to the tune of about $1.5 trillion.

This new bill will be debated in the House in September. So, a question for us, his constituents, is what we’re going to do if Greg Walden continues to vote against our interests and for those of major insurance companies and the wealthy.

— Constance and Kevin Marr, owners of the Motel Del Rogue in Grants Pass, are members of the Main Street Alliance.

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