Op-Eds

In Health Care Battle, McConnell Prioritizes Profit over People

Mar 16, 2020

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Two weeks ago I received a letter from Angie, a working mom. She wrote to me about her 12-year-old daughter, Addison, who has had Type 1 diabetes since she was three. Sometimes, Angie and her husband, Steve — who have insurance — pay as much as $1,000 out of pocket per month for the medication and supplies their daughter needs to stay alive. That’s in addition to the $1,250 she and her husband are paying every month for their health insurance premiums.

Angie has been fighting with insurance companies for nine years to get coverage for her daughter’s lifesaving health needs. And she’s not alone. As I talk to Kentuckians across the state, the number one concern I hear about is access to affordable, quality health care.

Kentucky has some of the worst health statistics in the nation. We have the highest mortality rate for cancer and among the worst rates of lung disease, diabetes and heart disease.

Yet as Kentuckians struggle, Senator Mitch McConnell has fought to make our health care system and its outcomes even worse.

As we are in the midst of a global coronavirus pandemic, let’s remember that McConnell has consistently voted to cut funding for medical research and immunization programs, and cut funding to the very agencies (CDC and NIH) that should be prepared for an infectious disease outbreak. Instead of acting immediately to include provisions in an emergency bill to control the costs of vaccines and treatments being developed in response to this outbreak, he held up coronavirus funding in order to make sure Big Pharma would still be able to gouge prices.

Businesses are shuttering, schools are closing, our front-line workers are at risk, and McConnell took off for a long weekend instead of working with his colleagues on the legislation we urgently need to curb this public health crisis. What good is a powerful senator if he treats Kentuckians like this?

In the Navy, the captain doesn’t leave the bridge when the ship is in distress. It’s a pretty basic leadership principle.

Why does someone who is supposed to represent and fight for Kentuckians care more about Big Pharma and hobnobbing with his political allies than ensuring the country has resources we need to respond to this pandemic? Follow the money. Big Pharma has been showering McConnell with campaign cash for 35 years. He accepted more money from Big Pharma executives than any other member of Congress during the last year.

Let’s also not forget that McConnell led the charge — unsuccessfully — to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without replacement legislation, which would have devastated so many Kentuckians’ access to health care. The ACA is far from perfect, but through Kynect and expanded Medicaid, it enabled more than 400,000 Kentuckians — especially those with pre-existing conditions — to get affordable health insurance for the first time. As a result of the ACA, more people in your community now have access to needed treatment and lifesaving preventive care like mammograms, blood pressure screenings and flu shots.

For every 830 people who are able to gain affordable health insurance, at least one life is estimated to be saved each year. By that measure, since the ACA began, its enactment has saved almost 4,000 lives in Kentucky alone.

But despite the ACA moving the needle on access to health care, McConnell has continually sold out Kentucky to his special interests friends and campaign funders, and he will continue to do so unless we stand up and say enough.

We can improve our current system, and keep what’s working, to get more people coverage and bring down prices — it’s just common sense.

One of the first things I will do when I get into office is fight for legislation to lower prescription drug costs. There are six bipartisan bills on Mitch McConnell’s desk to reduce prescription prices, including legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate lower costs, and he won’t act on any of them. Meanwhile, the average Kentuckian spends over $2,000 annually on prescription medications — the second highest in the nation.

Providing access to a public option for health insurance would allow all Americans the choice to buy a government insurance plan, much like I buy for my family as a military retiree. This will not only give Kentuckians more options, it will drive down costs by forcing private insurers to compete with Uncle Sam.

Every Kentuckian deserves to be able to visit the doctor and get the treatment they need, and no one should have to choose between filling their prescriptions and paying their rent.

We have to fight back against the corrupt system, championed by McConnell, that prioritizes the profits of insurance and pharmaceutical companies over the health and well being of Americans — and that starts with defeating McConnell this November.

– Retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Amy McGrath

PAID FOR BY AMY MCGRATH FOR SENATE

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