[Click. Dial tone.]
That’s how a state senator reportedly responded to a bedridden constituent in need of major surgery who contacted him recently to express her support for SB 395, a bill that would provide private health insurance for 70,000 working poor in Montana –think restaurant workers, hotel staff, and ranch hands.
Nancy McCampbell called every member of the Senate Public Health Committee-including Sen. Fred Thomas–earlier this week to tell her story and ask that the bill be passed. Ms. McCampbell recounts the following to me, about her experience and her conversation with Thomas:
“I got a part-time job at Safeway, LOST my health insurance, THEN got cancer last April. There was a six month gap before the Safeway health plan kicked in. I’m on a waiting list for heart surgery at Stanford but I can’t even afford to GET to Stanford, and have no where to stay, once I get there. I certainly can not afford to travel, every year, for an annual checkup, 2,400 miles. I was telling him my story, I was very polite, he seemed to be listening until the subject of cost and numbers came up and he said he had to go. I said “Please, I only have one question for you. Do you care, if I live or die?”
“One word Mr. Thomas, yes, or no?
Thomas’s response? According to McCampbell, he hung up in her face.
It’s shocking and sad that a legislator would treat a constituent this callously. Kudos are due to Ms. McCampbell and the thousands of Montanans like her who have urged the legislature to do the right thing and support the bill to use federal funds to purchase private insurance for working poor Montanans.
Now a bill that is very similar to SB 395, Liz Bangerter’s HB 623, seems like the health care bill that is getting the most support. This bill will provide access to health care for up to 70,000 Montanans by using federal funds to purchase private insurance. While this is a compromise, it is also a huge victory. The House could receive the bill as early as today- please call or email the Capitol at 444-4800 and leave a message for your representative asking them to support HB 623.