On Saturday, DoingItLocal.com’s David Smith interviewed former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT), a candidate for the Senate in 2010. Simmons, who is facing a crowded primary for the Republican nomination, has lurched to the far right to accommodate his party’s tea party base. He has renounced his support for progressive policies like cap-and-trade and the Employee Free Choice Act, and now proudly displays an actual tea bag tucked away in his copy of the Constitution.
Most recently, Simmons has tacked to the right on health reform as well. He attacked current legislation as a “government takeover” and denounced government interference in health care as placing “bureaucrats between patients and doctors.” But during his interview with Smith, Simmons went off his conservative script, stating that unemployed workers should seek the government-sponsored program of Medicaid:
SMITH: One of the aspects of the economy that is taking a very serious toll on families is of course healthcare. When people lose jobs, typically they lose they lose their health care. […] What do you suggest, what kind of answers do you have for people who are facing the all too real, daunting situation of not having health care?
SIMMONS: Well back in my part of the state and I know throughout the state you have community health centers or clinics that are available. Obviously if you lose your job and you fall within the income limits, you are eligible to sign up for Medicaid. There are other low cost options available but we really have to make sure is that people have the information they need so they can sign up for a plan that’s going to work for them. [...] I am sympathetic to those confronted with the loss of healthcare. I would urge people to get in contact with their member of Congress to learn about the options available.
Simmons appears to be advocating a government-provided backstop health care option for unemployed people. Will Simmons face censure now that he appears to be violating yet another provision of the Republican Party Purity Pledge? If you ask Simmons’ prospective GOP colleagues, like Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Medicaid is an abhorrent “medical ghetto.”
In reality, Medicaid is “cost-effective compared to private health insurance” and 74% of Americans, according to a 2005 Kaiser Family Foundation poll, consider it a very important program. The program protects low-income Americans from uncontrollable out-of-pocket costs charged by private insurers and also “covers services not usually covered in private health insurance.” Under the Senate health bill, “most nonelderly people with income below 133 percent of the [federal poverty line] would be made eligible for Medicaid” starting in 2014.