Nurses and teachers in Corpus Christi, Texas on July 30 challenged US Representative Blake Farenthold to step outside of his local office and defend his vote to deny health care coverage to millions of Americans.
They also chastised Rep. Farenthold for his implied threat of violence against women senators–Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Shelly Moore Capito–for voting against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
After the US Senate rejected two Republican bills to dismantle Obamacare, Rep. Farenthold singled out the three Republican women among seven Republican senators who voted against one of the two bills.
He said that he would like to settle the score with them “Aaron Burr style,” referencing the 1804 duel between then Vice President Aaron Burr and former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in which Burr killed Hamilton.
Rep. Farenthold voted to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a Republican health care plan that the Congressional Budget Office said would cause 23 million people to lose their health care coverage.
With temperatures reaching 97 degrees on a hot summer afternoon, members of National Nurses United/National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNU/NNOC) and the Corpus Christi American Federation of Teachers rallied outside of Rep. Farenthold’s Corpus Christi office to challenge him on his implied threat and his vote to reduce health care coverage.
Sylvia Higgins, a nurse and a member of NNU/NNOC, challenged him with facts about the impact that his vote for the Republican bill would have had on Texans and demanded that he support a common sense approach to providing health coverage for everyone.
“Currently, 4.3 million Texans are uninsured, and an additional 2.5 million Texans would have lost coverage under the dangerous GOP bill (to repeal Obamacare),” said Higgins. “Now that the GOP bill is effectively dead, any politician who truly represents the people would internalize the real facts about health care and begin advocating for a single-payer-for-all healthcare system—because that’s what our patients deserve.”
Others like a teacher who carried a sign that simply read, “Shame on you Farenthold,” challenged Rep. Farenthold’s character.
Apparently, Rep. Farenthold wasn’t up to the nurses’ and teachers’ challenge.
He said he couldn’t meet with them because he had to be in Moulton, a small town about 140 miles north of Corpus Christi.
Farenthold said that repealing Obamacare care remained one of his top priorities because “Obamacare is hurting the American people, especially those it was intended to help.”
Rep Farenthold is right. People are hurting, especially in Texas, but it’s not because of Obamacare; rather, it’s because of Republican antipathy toward Obamacare.
Texas, which is governed by Republicans, chose not to participate in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and actively disrupted efforts by non-profit groups to help people get health insurance through the federal health insurance exchanges.
As a result, 20 percent of adult Texans still lack health insurance.
Republican health care policy has hurt Texans in other ways as well.
Republican state officials have cut off government funding to Planned Parenthood and enacted laws that resulted in the closure of 31 Planned Parenthood affiliated clinics, most of which were in medically under served areas.
In addition to providing birth control and abortion services, these clinics provided basic health screenings for low-income women.
According to a recent study, among women with a high school education or less who once received examinations for breast cancer at Planned Parenthood clinics, 31 percent fewer are still getting examined.
There’s another health care crisis going on in Texas that is just now starting to get some attention.
The rate of pregnancy related deaths of women in Texas is 35.8 per 100,000. The national average excluding California is 23.8 per 100,000.
Texas leaders have appointed a task force to learn the cause and recommend a remedy for the state’s alarmingly high rate of pregnancy related deaths.
To the chagrin of Texas’ leaders, California may have already answered these questions. California’s pregnancy related death rate is 7.3 per 100,000.
California’s success at reducing pregnancy related deaths is the result of a collective public health initiative funded by the state and federal government and the California Healthcare Foundation.
It should also be noted that only 8 percent of Californians lack health insurance, which makes health care much more accessible in California.
It is unquestionable that Obamacare is a much better approach to health care than the Republican approach, but Obamacare is not without its shortcomings.
The main problem is that 29 million Americans still don’t have health insurance, which is why when people demonstrated in front of Rep. Farenthold’s office, they advocated for a single-payer health care plan that would make health insurance available to everyone.
“We need single payer/Medicare for All, and we need Rep. Farenthold to advocate for it,” said Cynthia Martinez, a nurse and NNU/NNOC member.