MIA In Mississippi

How Far Will Congressman Wittman Go To Avoid His Constituents?

As I’ve traveled Virginia’s First Congressional District the last few months, constituents want to know “Where is Congressman Rob Wittman?” From Prince William to Fredericksburg to Hanover, from Essex to Middlesex to Gloucester, from King George to Westmoreland to Lancaster and from New Kent to James City, no one can seem to find Rep. Wittman.

The truth is that he’s been missing for a long time. Whether it was his focus on his failed run for Governor or his role in furloughing workers during the Federal Government shutdown, he’s shown where his priorities lie — and it’s not with Virginia families or his district. In fact during the February district work period, Wittman didn’t visit with his constituents, instead he was in Mississippi visiting corporate donors.

It should come as no surprise to constituents that when the going gets tough, Wittman runs and hides. He has refused to hold in-person town hall meetings to discuss the issues of critical concern within his district.

On health care, Wittman has voted 50+ times to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) — and most recently voted to eliminate women’s health care funds.

We hear a lot about the ACA, but the full title is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That’s right, “Patient Protection” is first in the law — and this applies to everyone who is a patient and buys health insurance.

The “Patient Protection” part of the ACA limits how much an insurance company can charge you for coverage. It allows parents to include their children up to age 26 on their own plans; it improves coverage for preventive care, mental health care, women’s health care, children’s health care, prescription drugs and emergency services; and, protects against premium discrimination based on age and gender. You also can’t be cancelled or denied coverage or charged more because of pre-existing conditions. Prior to ACA, insurance companies denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Families had to go through an arduous underwriting period year-after-year accounting for every doctor’s visit they made to be able to continue to get affordable policies.

Under various Republican “replacement” proposals, your health care costs will dramatically rise.

The financial risk for people with pre-existing conditions or people who develop a new health problem would be significant. For example, consumers will be forced to meet a “continuous coverage” requirement. Imagine finding out that you have cancer and need to undergo treatments that could last up to six months. You’re unable to work and possibly lose your job — and your employer-sponsored health care coverage with it. If you have a gap in coverage, you could be charged premiums that you couldn’t afford; thus, denying you from getting the care that you need.

Repeal of the ACA would bring back annual or lifetime limits on benefits and remove caps on out-of-pocket spending. This would affect everyone. In 2017 the out-of-pocket maximums for a family is $14,300. Cancer treatments are incredibly expensive and usually require cycles of treatments that could stretch for months. Say treatments began at the end of the year, it’s likely that you would quickly reach the out-of-pocket maximum almost immediately. In January, the out-of-pocket maximums would reset. So in the span of a six month period, you very well could be on the hook to pay more than $28,000. Let that sink in and imagine if there were no caps on annual out-of-pocket spending. That figure is high enough for your average, middle class family. Just imagine if there were no caps on out-of-pocket spending and limits placed on annual benefits — and caps on lifetime benefits! This is why people were going bankrupt for health debts before ACA became law.

Other benefits that would be affected by repeal of ACA include allowing your children to stay on your plan until they turn 26; free preventive screenings such as colonoscopies and mammograms and contraceptives; coverage for essential benefits such maternity, mental health, pediatric services such as dental and vision care, emergency services and prescription drugs would no longer have to be included. Older workers premiums would not be limited on how much they could charge compared to younger workers.

While the ACA isn’t perfect, the benefits far outway the negatives. Wittman has been deriding the ACA for years by hiding behind Republican talking points on repeal. Instead of holding in-person town hall meetings to hear the many benefits that ACA has provided to district families, he’s gone into hiding. It’s almost like he figures that if he ignores the issue that it will just go away. 
 
Before ACA became law of the land, an estimated 43,000 Americans died every year of causes related to lack of health care insurance. Now over 30 million Americans are able to sleep better at night not having to worry so much about this basic need because ACA finally gave them health care coverage. But leave it to Rep Wittman and his GOP handlers and these benefits will be lost. A bill to repeal ACA and replace it with slipshod coverage that favors health insurance corporations at the expense and well-being of the American people is untenable. They can call that bill “The Health Insurance Corporation Protection and Death Panel Reinstatement Act.”

With regard to National Security, First District residents are justifiably concerned about Russian interference in our national election, the possibility of Trump campaign coordination and quid pro quo with Russian officials. They are concerned about potential promises made by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to the Russian Ambassador and the fact that Flynn lied about what was discussed. Even when Trump administration officials knew about Flynn’s inappropriate contact with Russians, Flynn wasn’t fired or asked to resign until the public found out. Many people, including increasing numbers of GOP Senators and Congressmen believe this potential national security breach should be investigated. However, when Congressman Wittman was asked about this dangerous debacle, he had a flaccidly careless response: “Gen. Flynn has resigned. Case done.”

What did Wittman have to say about Trump’s misguided and wrong-headed Executive Order to ban entry into the US from citizens of Muslim majority countries and the fact that a bipartisan group of national security officials argued that such a ban would actually make America less safe? Wittman’s greatest concern was about its’ “disorderly rollout.” When given the opportunity to go on the record and debate the merits of the travel ban, he voted against doing so — again turning his back on our national security.

As Jim Hightower once said, “The opposite for courage is not cowardice, it is conformity. Even a dead fish can go with the flow.”

Speaking of fish. Instead of meeting with constituents to address their concerns during the congressional district work period, Rep. Wittman was spotted fishing for dollars from his top campaign donor in the Mississippi bayou — far, far from home.