On CSPAN’s Washington Journal yesterday, former Republican congressman Tom Davis received a call from an elderly woman named Dorothy, who said that because she has diabetes, health insurance companies “reject” her. “They don’t even want to accept me,” said Dorothy. “Is that, is that possible they could get away with that? That seems like discriminating.”
Davis responded by saying that he understood her “dilemma” and that she probably wouldn’t be able to retire by 62 as she desires. Advising her that she’d be alright if she found “a job with a major employer,” Davis said it would be “difficult” on her own:
DAVIS: I don’t think you’ll find, probably be able to find some health insurance but if its with a small business or you’re going out on your own, it’s difficult at this point. There may be a government plan or private plans that are mandated coming out of this that are maybe able to help you. … I don’t know any reason why you shouldn’t be able to find something out there, but you want to look for an employer that has a health care plan. Good luck.
Later in the show, another caller criticized Davis for his “good luck” response, saying that it “encapsulates the entire Republican Party’s attitude towards any problems that are facing the American people today.” Davis replied that he didn’t mean “good luck” as a “kiss off,” but just as “good luck to you as you try to move through this problem.” Watch it:
Beyond responding to Dorothy with seeming callousness, Davis’ answer to her problem is also contradictory in its approach to a public health care option.
Davis first tells Dorothy that “a government plan” may “be able to help you.” (Which is true.) But when challenged by the later caller, he argued, “I don’t know that she can count on Washington to solve it for her.” In the next sentence, however, he said that she “can probably get some relief” when she qualifies for Medicare, which is government-provided. A NYT/CBS News poll this weekend found that 72 percent of Americans support creating a public health insurance option.
HOST: We’ll go to Dorothy from Newport Ritchie, Florida. Good morning, welcome to the program.
DOROTHY: Yes, good morning. I’d like to talk about health care. I’m in a predicament right now. I have diabetes, I’ve been shopping around, I’d like to retire at 62 and I’m having a difficult time. All — most insurance companies, they reject me for having diabetes. They don’t even want to accept me. Is that, is that possible they could get away with that? That seems like discriminating. I didn’t ask to be, to have diabetes or be sick, whatever. And…
DAVIS: Do you have adult, is it adult onset diabetes?
DOROTHY: Yes. Type 2. I’m only on the pill. I try to watch my weight, my diet, I exercise. So they, they say they cannot accept me. I’m not asking for free, I’m willing to go up to a certain amount per month that I could afford and I’m a difficult time. I don’t know that the people in Congress, the people in the Senate, they don’t have a problem. We put them there, they are set for life with their insurance.
HOST: Well, Dorothy, let me ask you. There’s a story this morning, front page of the New York Times, there’s a new CBS News/New York Times poll that says two things. First of all, 85 percent of those respondents said that the health care system needed to be fundamentally changed. Seventy-seven percent said that they were very or somewhat satisfied with the quality of their own care.
DOROTHY: Yes, but well, I don’t know where they get those numbers from. I spoke to many people, I work in retail and I’ve been in contact with, you know, customers and I speak to them about it on this side. I hear their comments about health care and no one is satisfied.
DAVIS: Well, Dorothy, let me, let me say a couple things. First of all, you know, I understand the dilemma you’re in. I don’t know if you’ll be able to retire at 62 or not. Frankly, I mean all of our 401Ks are down. I wish I could retire at 62. I think you’re going to find Americans working longer than they had originally anticipated, given the economic downturn and some of the economic realities. If you can find a job with a major employer, they’re not going to be able to reject you under those cases. I don’t think you’ll find, probably be able to find some health insurance but if its with a small business or you’re going out on your own, it’s difficult at this point. There may be a government plan or private plans that are mandated coming out of this that are maybe able to help you. But diabetes, particularly adult onset, is controlable. If you watch your weight, if you exercise, watch what you eat and, you know, continue I guess in this case to take your medication. I don’t know any reason why you shouldn’t be able to find something out there, but you want to look for an employer that has a health care plan. Good luck.
HOST: Our next caller is from Leslie Maryland, good morning.
CALLER: Good morning, gentleman, how are you?
HOST: Fine, thank you.
CALLER: Yeah, a little background here. I live in Maryland’s 5th district, Steny Hoyer is my representative. I am however, what I refer to as a progressive American independent
HOST: What does that mean?
CALLER: That means I have very progressive social values — and I see Tom smiling there as most Republicans would. But let me inform you that I spent seven years in Navy Special Operations and my birthday is 4/13/55, Thomas Jefferson’s birthday is 4/13/1743. So, I have a great deal of respect for Thomas Jefferson, who I think would be rolling over in his grave if he saw what was happening in the country today. But let me move on, I don’t want to waste a lot of time.
DAVIS: Probably all of the founding fathers would be rolling over right now.
CALLER: I’ll make, I’ll make my comment then I’ll get off the phone. Anyway, one of the things that I noticed this morning was Tom’s reaction to the woman who called looking for the job with health care and his final statement was “good luck,” which I think encapsulates the entire Republican party’s attitude towards any problems that are facing the American people today. I also have a master’s degree in economics.
HOST: Did you want to respond to Rick?
DAVIS: Well, congratulations on — well, I wish her good luck at this point. We’ll see what comes out of the health care plan. It wasn’t a “good luck, you’re on your own type of thing.” I think we all feel for people that are in those kinds of positions. But it’s very difficult. When you start having the government take care of everybody with a problem, as I said you’re doing it with borrowed money, what you want to see is — these are not simple solutions. It is progressive to continue to borrow money, to spend to take care of people’s problems. This tends to be a pretty inefficient way of doing things, number one. And number two, down the pike, somebody has to pay for it. I think I’m fairly progressive in my views as well. I was the head of a county government before I came to Washington and had to run it, inherited a pretty big deficit and was selected two years later, after making a number of changes, as the best financially-run county in the country. So I look at governance as a very very tough business and I don’t think “good luck” was like a kiss off. I would generally say good luck to you as you try to move through this problem. But I don’t know that she can count on Washington to solve it for her. She will be eligible for Medicare in 3 years. And at that point, you can probably get some relief on some of the issues she’s looking for. She wanted to retire at 62 years old. We’d all like to retire at 62 years old, but I’m not so sure government can guarantee that people can just retire at 62 years old or that we should be doing those kind of things and maybe that’s where I part company with the caller.