Final Guest Blog of the Day

11.09.12

An Open Letter to Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker

A Mississippian has words for Sen. Wicker

Republican Roger Wicker of Tupelo has now cruised easily to re-election to a full term in the US Senate.

No surprise there. He’s a very popular and conservative Republican who has served our state well in Washington for nearly two decades, beginning in the House of Representatives.

Parts of the State, anyhow…

Next couple of weeks won’t be such fun for me, however: I am about to lose my health insurance. I currently receive coverage through my wife’s plan, which she gets through her employer. However, she was informed this past week that our premiums will increase by 63% very soon. This, I’m afraid, is a bit much for our budget to bear; we’ll have to drop me from the policy.

To the politically-informed reader, the immediate cause of my predicament is well known: insurers are finding themselves increasingly bound by greater coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act, and they are – while they still can – passing along those increased costs to their customers.

I can state with certainty that most folks in my locale would respond to this situation the way they’ve been responding to it: By calling down curses upon Pres. Obama and the Democrats in Congress who passed that law. Perhaps there is some blame to be apportioned there.

But, is it too much to ask that we hold Sen. Roger Wicker and his Republican colleagues accountable for this tragedy as well?

“But why would we do THAT?!” you ask; after all, Sen. Wicker didn’t vote for the ACA. As a matter of fact, not a single Republican in either house of Congress did. How can we possibly hold them responsible?

But, I would say to my fellow Mississippians who are finding themselves, as I am, priced out of the health insurance market: Doesn’t being a US Senator impute some responsibility for a major change like the Affordable Care Act, whether he/she voted for it or not? Isn’t a Representative’s job, after all, to Represent? Meaning, if you see a potential problem with a major piece of legislation which will have far-reaching effects upon your constituents, shouldn’t you at least TRY to fix some of those problems?

I’m trying now to recall ever reading or otherwise hearing about Sen. Wicker approaching the Democratic leadership in the run-up to passage of this bill, and presenting in good faith, sensible solutions to some of the problems which were bound to arise. After all, it was apparent for months after the passing of the late-Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts that the Senate’s version of the health care law would be the one to pass, if any version did. That means that a lot of folks would find themselves – as many have – in the same situation I currently inhabit: unable to afford health insurance policies due to coverage requirements phased in before subsidies provided for in the law to help lower income people pay for the cost of a policy (which start in 2014). This isn’t a crack in the sidewalk: It’s a canyon in the middle of the street.

And no one was willing or able to build a bridge for folks like me. (Full disclosure: the author is eligible for low-cost routine care at local VA clinics, but this is hardly a solution in the event of a major illness or emergency and, of course, isn’t an option at all for the majority of the population.)

I do not remember Sen. Wicker ever approaching the Democrats in good faith and attempting to build that metaphorical bridge. What I do remember clearly, however, are the numerous pointed sound bites he delivered on Fox News, as well as the searing editorials he published in the local newspapers attacking Obama and the ACA as Socialist, etc. Unfortunately, that’s all the assistance I’ve gotten from Sen. Wicker on this matter: Lots of talk. No real action.

As I said earlier, Sen. Wicker has now won re-election on Tuesday by a comfortable margin. I voted for Sen. Wicker – in spite of this glaring failure in his performance on Capitol Hill – because I know he is a good man who has been under tremendous political pressure in recent years by more extreme elements of his Party. But I wonder how, in the longer term, he and his Party will continue to win elections when the day arrives that people my age and with my needs constitute a majority of the Nation’s and the State’s voters? What will he do? Who will lead the way forward?

We’re waiting, Senator…