On Friday, GOP county commissioners Suzy Foss, Jeff Burrows, Ron Stolz, J.R. Iman, and Greg Chilcot eliminated all women’s health services from Ravalli County, including breast and cervical cancer screening and even birth control, men’s testicular cancer screening, mammograms, breast cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing–but not abortion. The county family planning clinic does not provide abortions, and the Title X funds cannot be used for abortion anyway – federal law prohibits it. The county says it will reject the $50,000 in federal funds that were allocated to them for this health care for men and women.
Lets take a look at some of the ridiculous arguments these elected representatives of the people tried to use to justify their behavior–and why they don’t pass the smell test.
1. We’re “concerned about the staggering national debt.”
TEA Party Party Republican Suzy Foss claimed that the county eliminated women’s health services because they simply could not suffer this $50,000 payment from the federal government.
If federal spending were such a concern why did Ravalli County not reject the $1.1 million in federal Secure Rural Schools funds they received last year, or the tens of millions in federal highway dollars? Ravalli County was the third largest recipient of federal PILT dollars (payment in lieu of taxes for public lands within a county) in the state – taking in nearly $4 million over the last two years. What about all the firefighting funds, the millions in government loans to Ravalli County businesses, and the hundreds of thousands in stimulus funds they’ve accepted –not to mention all of the the Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, disaster assistance, and so on.
2. Foss also said her decision was not based strictly her religious views.
Again, if her decision was based on concern over the national debt, why did Ravalli County eagerly accept tens of millions in other federal dollars?
3. “Personally, I don’t want to take any federal government funding,” said one TEA Partier who testified against the health care funds. “There’s no need to allow government to reach further into our lives.”
No one is requiring TEA partiers to visit the clinic. If this individual opposes taking any federal funding, she needn’t use the services. (She should probably also stop driving on any roads, sending her kids to school, and calling 911.)
4. People can just go to the hospital to get these services. “If they don’t take everybody, then we need to get on their case about it,” said Suzy Foss “It’s a community hospital. They have to see all of our community.”
Another ludicrous claim from Foss. The TEA Party urban legend that anyone can go into a hospital emergency room and receive health care without payment is easily disproved, if you are literate. The fact is, hospitals are only required to provide emergency services if denying you treatment would lead to your imminent death or organ failure. You could get treated for a gunshot wound or a heart attack, but you couldn’t get tested for cancer or even have your cancer removed unless it was already so advanced you were likely not to survive anyway. And even then, then they would send you a bill complete with an itemized list of $50 dollar aspirins. If you don’t pay that bill, you and your family are looking at financial ruin. These family planning funds are for preventative treatments that are provided at a low-cost to people in need – this care isn’t available at the local hospital. They do however have a gift shop in the hospital lobby.
5. Commissioner Ron Stoltz said he “does a lot of investigation before casting a vote. He said he had read the Title X document several times”
If Ravalli County is a place where actually reading a staff memo counts as “a lot of investigation,” I shudder to think about the basis for the other decisions Ron Stoltz is making.
6. “My decision is based on what’s best for the community,” claimed Stoltz.
Stoltz said no to critical prevention care for 400 members of his own community–nearly 90% of whom are low-income, as Planned Parenthood pointed out in a recent email to their members. He said no to life-saving cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing and treatment, and infertility treatments.
This bunch said no to the health and safety of Ravalli County communities and families, and he said no to the overwhelming majority of the community who support proven prevention programs like Title X.
7. “I think for us we’re going to move to the private sector, to look at some funding, we may look at a mill levy,” Commissioner Greg Chilcott said.
Why has no one proposed this great idea before?! The county sends the tax dollars that Ravalli County residents have already paid to other counties instead of putting them to work to benefit the people that paid them–then raises another tax on the same people forcing them to pay again to fund the same services. Genius.
8. “We’re very conservative and very sensible” said one public health opponent, who was asked why Ravalli commissioners were the only ones in the state to turn away this funding.
Conservative these commissioners may be – but I’ve seen bricks with more sense. To claim they oppose federal spending while eliminating federal programs that are proven to save money is the opposite of sensible. They turned away an investment that saves taxpayers $4.00 for every dollar spent on family planning funding.