Three separate town hall events were held in our area this past week.
Congressman Jim Jordan (CD 4-OH) held a meeting outside on President’s Day in the central Ohio town of Marion. Many travelled more than two hours each way to attend in what qualifies as one of the most gerrymandered districts in the United States.
A crowd of 300 persons, comprised of all ages, genders, races, and physical abilities, packed the front lawn of the Warren G. Harding Presidential Site. Congressman Jordan exited the historic house in shirt sleeves only. It was 60 degrees Fahrenheit, unlike a year before when the same date featured snow and bitter cold. Jordan agrees with the Republican Party that climate change isn’t caused or accelerated by human activity and reiterated he doesn’t believe the Environmental Protection Agency is necessary.
Questions were asked about the Affordable Care Act to illuminate Jordan’s position on US health care. He stated “health care is bad for business.” He said he didn’t like how his able-bodied 27-year-old son had to pay higher private health insurance premiums because other families’ young adult children are sometimes sicker with diseases like M.S. or cancer. It wasn’t “fair” since his son is “healthy” and shouldn’t have to subsidize other “non-healthy” Americans’ health care. A woman standing next to me with a child in a wheelchair said, “Obviously, Mr. Jordan does not understand people do not choose to have cancer or M.S.” In response to questions about why he has voted to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides health care to many low income women, Jordan stated he was proud to have voted to remove all abortion funding from any government aid throughout the world.
After the town hall abruptly ended, the public was invited to meet at the Marion Public Library, located just around the corner from the historical site. Participants who worked as health care providers expressed frustration over Jordan’s idea of health care as a for-profit pursuit instead of a human right, in direct contradiction to the Hippocratic Oath. Two individuals who plan to run in 2018 against Jordan spoke briefly–Janet Garrett and Andrew Mackey. They want to work on tackling the fourth district’s toughest problems, namely providing help for those suffering from opioid addiction, gaining health care coverage, and building affordable housing for all.
A second chance for Ohioans to interact with elected officials came two days later at a Republican fundraiser in Fremont. About one hundred activists stood outside the conference center at a local community college waiting for Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) to come out and address the crowd’s concerns about health care and other issues. The senator had arrived several hours earlier than announced and was already in the building and wouldn’t make an appearance it was later discovered, but this fact didn’t deter the activists. They stayed to share information about upcoming events with the public.
The third event was perhaps the most “classic” town hall event of the three. About 200 attended a rally on the state of U.S. health care held at Bowling Green State University. Several local groups hosted tables providing information about area progressive organizations, petitions, and upcoming events. Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH 5th district) was a no-show in his hometown, as were Ohio Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown and a dozen other elected officials, who were invited. Only two sent letters of regret stating they couldn’t attend due to prior commitments and offered their support–U.S. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur and state Representative Steve Arndt.
Ohio State Senator Randy Gardner (R) and State Representative Michael Sheehy (D) attended and gave their insights on American health care, fielding questions along with Dr. John Ross, a local physician/teacher and activist, on public health care topics. The discussion was lively and poignant at times. Several participants shared their stories of how the A.C.A. and Medicare have saved their lives and the lives of family members. State Senator Gardner did his best to handle concerns many had about the Republican proposal to abolish the A.C.A. and institute “tax breaks” instead. As low income persons generally do not pay any federal income taxes, what “tax break” would these individuals receive to pay for private health coverage? Both Gardner and Sheehy said that, as state officials, they cannot predict what their federal counterparts will do, but they both were in favor of Governor John Kasich’s decision to accept the A.C.A.’s expanded Medicaid program, as over 700,000 Ohioans have benefited from it.
“Health care is a right,” said Representative Sheehy, declaring it to be our next human rights struggle, akin to the abolition of slavery and women gaining the right to vote. He noted citizens live longer in countries that provide universal health care. Dr. Ross shared that Taiwan, in 1995, instituted a “Medicare for all” health coverage for its citizens after studying the U.S. Medicare system and deeming it the world’s best health care delivery system. Dr. Ross also noted how the idea of the open market doesn’t work simply in this case because health care isn’t a consumer product: “People don’t have two heart operations because they’re cheap or on sale.” Medicare for all is a smart business decision and would help entrepreneurs start their own businesses and create more jobs for Americans.
The main thread which ran through each of these town hall events was well stated by Senator Gardner. When speaking with a class of fifth graders, he asked them, “Who is my boss?” They answered “the president” or “the governor” until he told them, “No, you are my boss. I work for you.” This is a lesson all Americans need to keep in mind as they continue to speak out and share their concerns with their elected representatives.
Bio: Cindy A. Matthews is a freelance writer, novelist and editor of Our Revolution Continues blog: http://bernie2016.blogspot.com.