Thomas Oatway: Setting aside special interests for leadership

SCV Voices: Guest Commentary
SCV Voices: Guest Commentary

Senator John McCain delivered an impassioned, important, and patriotic message to his colleagues in the U.S. Senate this week. As one of the true patriots of our time, he sets an example that needs to be followed by all members of Congress as they endeavor to produce health care legislation to correct imperfections in our existing policies.

An excerpt from his speech follows:

“Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle.

“That’s an approach that’s been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side, with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires.”

We need to find more patriotic heroes like Sen. McCain. Compromise in this important issue is going to require them to step forward. The health and welfare of our citizens, not to mention the economic health of our nation, is in the balance.

It is imperative that we protect the most vulnerable members of our society while also finding cost-effective solutions to reduce medical cost inflation, which will eventually consume a disproportionate portion of the federal budget and impact our national security.

The imperfections in the ACA (Obamacare) seem to be solvable if a bipartisan approach is taken. Individual insurance markets are being strained by the costs to cover the elderly, sick, and infirm. This begs for a pubic option to relieve insurers of the cost risk for these individuals.

Medicaid (and Medicare) costs are rising and will continue to inflate as baby-boomers retire in greater numbers. There are available cost-reduction solutions, including negotiated prices for prescription drugs, that have been blocked by special interest contributions to politicians on both sides of the political spectrum.

There are no patriots in the group of legislators whose campaign contributions are more important than doing the right thing for the American people.

Medicaid covers the poor and disabled whose income is not sufficient to provide for their own care. In investigating the care needs for my disabled sister, I was told by assisted living providers that federal assistance was not available for those who could be cared for in a less expensive environment than nursing homes.

Thus, nursing homes are receiving many patients who could still live independent lives if they had appropriate assistance. This could be easily corrected by legislative action, but has not been. Why not?

My personal experience with Medicaid resulted from the disability of my younger sister, who became physically and mentally incapable of handling her affairs soon after retirement. Family members were not equipped to provide the care she needed, so she was moved into a nursing home, which provided excellent care but was expensive.

Her retirement savings were exhausted in just a few years. Her only income was a Social Security pension that provided only about 25 percent of the cost of a nursing home.

Thankfully, she was accepted by Medicaid (in Florida), and her care was uninterrupted. She passed away in 2016, but she was never denied her dignity – thanks to the Medicaid program support.

I cannot fathom the absence of morality in a political system that would deny this same level of care to the most vulnerable in our society.

Hopefully, Sen. John McCain can inspire the patriotic leadership in Congress that is currently lacking. In conjunction with a newly competent and responsible executive branch, solving this health care issue will illustrate that our democracy is not fatally broken.

Thank you, Sen. McCain, for your service – and for reminding us that patriotism is still alive in America.

Thomas Oatway is a Valencia resident.

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