Rep. Joseph Cao, a Republican representing New Orleans in Congress, voted repeatedly last night to kill health reform. Cao briefly supported health reform last November, when an amendment was added to the bill which altered current law and vastly restricted even private sector dollars from abortion insurance coverage. Staunch pro-life supporters — from a group of 59,000 Catholic nuns, to the Catholic Health Association, to Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) — supported the health reform bill passed last night and said it does not provide taxpayer funds to abortion services.
Regardless, Cao said he withdrew his support for health reform because of nonexistent abortion services. In an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picauyne, he further explained that the Senate bill contained abortion services “at a par with slavery.” Cao’s ugly comparison lacks substance and is insulting to his majority African American district. Statistics show that expanding health insurance coverage is “one of the most powerful tools for reducing the number of abortions” in industrialized countries. Furthermore, Cao is promoting a culture of death by trying to deny health reform to his New Orleans constituents:
— According to a report by the Center for American Progress, health reform makes a tremendous first step to eradicate the “medical apartheid” of health disparities faced by communities of color in America. The bill establishes demonstration programs to promote access to Medicare beneficiaries with limited English proficiency and provides incentives to encourage a range of needed health professionals to work in primary care settings, public health services, and in areas of workforce shortage.
— New Orleans is heavily uninsured. At about 24%, Cao’s district is 10% more uninsured than the national average. A Harvard study found that nearly 45,000 people die every year because of a lack of health insurance. Health reform will provide 31 million previously uninsured Americans with coverage, while ensuring those with coverage are never denied treatment because of their health status.
— Cao’s district has high rates of obesity and diabetes. Among many provisions aimed at decreasing chronic illness and promoting health lifestyles, health reform guarantees that all insurance companies offer free preventive care.
Despite promising to be an independent voice, Cao has now voted in lockstep against the stimulus, the President’s progressive budget, clean energy reform, financial reform, and health reform. Notably, shortly before the vote last night, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) hosted a $500-per-person fundraiser for him at the Capitol Hill Club.