Liz Frank, Contributor
UPDATE: The vote has been postponed until next week, which means we have more time to put the pressure on.
There are two men in the State of Oklahoma who are deciding how long Oklahomans deserve to live based on their bank account balances. Their names are Senators Jim Inhofe and James Lankford.
This week U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his minions in the Republican caucus, including Inhofe and Lankford, plan to vote to Repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, by passing the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.
Though Lankford is expected by most insiders to vote for the Act, he told CNN on June 22 that he was a “solid undecided.” Also on June 22, Inhofe said that the “Senate is committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare …” Last night, four days after he said he needed to review the bill, Inhofe told “Talking Points Memo’s” Alice Ollstein, “I’m not sure what it does. I just know it’s better than Obamacare.”
Inhofe and Lankford don’t care how many Oklahomans will be hurt or killed by this bill, they just want to repeal Barack Obama’s signature achievement.
This bill will adversely affect every single American’s health care, even those who have employer-provided insurance will be affected.
The Congressional Budget Office scored this bill, and calculated that 22 million Americans will lose coverage over the next decade; by 2026 more than 15 million fewer people will be Medicaid beneficiaries; and that the bill would allow states waivers to deny essential health benefits, which are currently mandated under the Affordable Care Act, like maternity care, emergency services, and mental healthcare, and substance abuse treatment.
If states, and it’s hard to imagine that Mary Fallin’s Oklahoma won’t be one of these states, apply for waivers to changes insurance policies to stop covering essential health benefits, then the cost of those services will go up for consumers who have an employer-provided insurance policy. Additionally, the Affordable Care Act mandates that employers of a certain size provide coverage to their employees. If the ACA is repealed, then there is no guarantee that employers won’t discontinue health benefits because the cost is too high.
Even though employers will no longer be required to provide their employees with healthcare, the individual mandate, which requires individuals to have continuous coverage, will be in the bill in the form of a penalty paid to the insurance companies (instead of the current tax to the Federal Government stipulated by the ACA) for letting coverage lapse. On Monday, the Senate added this provision, (in order to save the insurance marketplace they’re ostensibly trying to destroy) which would lock people out of coverage for six months, after they attempt to re-enroll in a plan if they had let their insurance coverage lapse in the previous year.
Because healthcare is complicated, if this Act is passed, everyone in America’s healthcare will change.
Many of the reductions in coverage don’t go into effect immediately, for example, the government will continue to pay health insurance companies subsidies until 2019. 2019 is conveniently two months after the 2018 midterm elections. Like most legislation, there is a delay in its application to shield the lawmakers from angry constituents transitioning into angry voters in election years.
The Senate is betting that Americans won’t realize the effects of this Act before November of 2018 and that by the time their coverage is reduced or eliminated in 2020, they are going to forget who is responsible for passing the bill.
Inhofe is up for re-election in 2020 and Lankford’s term is over in 2023, so he’ll be on the ballot in 2022. Will our collective memory survive that delay? We must impress upon these Senators that it will. We will remember who voted for our parents to be kicked out of their nursing homes, who voted on the bill that eliminated maternity care from list of essential health benefits, and who thought that eliminating healthcare coverage for 22 million Americans was the humane choice in 2017.
Obamacare isn’t perfect, but The Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 is inhumane. If Republicans believe so ardently in their plan, then they shouldn’t delay enacting its provisions for two to three years. If they think that it’s okay to pull this coverage from Americans, and if they don’t think that Medicaid is an important program for America’s poor, then they should stand by it. Stand by it this week when they vote for it, stand by it next week, and stand by it in 2020 and 2022 when we vote them out of office.
Did you know that all U.S. legislators maintain a local office, or offices, in their district or state so that they can stay connected to their constituents?
Inhofe maintains four local offices: Enid, McAlester, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa. His Tulsa office is located in the Robert W. Davis Tower on South Utica Avenue catty-corner from Utica Square.
Lankford, first elected in 2016, maintains two Oklahoma offices, one in Oklahoma City and one in Tulsa at the Remington Tower by the Tulsa Promenade Mall on East Skelly Drive off of South 41st Street.
If you have time this week, stop by their offices at 1924 South Utica Ave, Suite 530 and 5810 East Skelly Drive, Suite 1000, to let their staff know your thoughts on the healthcare bill. Tell them how you, your family, and your community will be affected when The Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 is implemented.
Lankford and Inhofe should have full voicemails, they should have constituents lining up outside of their offices, and their staff should be inundated with faxes and emails. Visit in person, if you can; call if you can’t. If you can’t get through on the phone, then send a fax. If you don’t have access to a fax machine, send an email.
Every time you contact your elected representatives they log your call, your address, and what you called about. They use the statistics created from these logs to calculate what their constituents want them to do. One call may not make a huge difference, but a flood of calls will.
Another plus to calling, visiting, and faxing is that these methods of contact require Senate staff action. While staffers are taking concerns and complaints from constituents, it keeps them from doing anything else in the office. In fact, “The New York Times” reported that “a large volume of calls on an issue could bring an office to a halt, sometimes spurring the legislator to put out a statement.”
We’re asking our readership to call, visit, fax, or email Inhofe and Lankford every day this week. You may feel like your call can’t change their minds, but if we jam up their offices by calling nonstop on the same issue they will at least hear our collective voice.
Republicans in D.C. have told the media that they’re not hearing from their constituents about this, let’s prove them to be liars: If you have the ability, video yourself calling or visiting their offices, take a picture of yourself, or a picture of your fax or email, and post it on this article’s Facebook comments section. We would love to see and share your engagement!
This bill could be life or death for you, for your family, and for all Americans. This is the time. This is the fight. We need to stand up now.
Inhofe Contact Information:
Phone: (202) 224-4721
Fax: (202) 228-0380
1924 S Utica Avenue, Suite 530
Phone: (918) 748-5111
Fax: (918) 918-748-5119
1900 NW Expressway Street, Suite 1210
Oklahoma City, OK
Phone: (405) 608-4381
Fax: (405) 608-4120
302 N. Independence, Suite 104
Phone: (580) 234-5105
Fax: (580) 234-5094
215 E. Choctaw Ave., Suite 106
Phone: (918) 426-0933
Fax: (918) 426-0935
E-mail (LAST Resort for Contact): https://www.inhofe.senate.gov/contact
Lankford Contact Information:
Phone: (202) 224-5754
Fax: (202) 228-1015
5810 East Skelly Dr., Suite 1000
Phone: (918) 581-7651
1015 North Broadway Ave., Suite 310
Oklahoma City, OK
Phone: (405) 231-4941
E-mail (LAST Resort for Contact): https://www.lankford.senate.gov/contact/email