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Monday, August 14, 2017

It's time for our senators to hear the people

As they have fought to get rid of Obamacare, U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, both R-Wyo., have failed to heed the voters who put them into office. It is time to meet the needs of Wyoming, not continue to serve party bosses.

By D. Reed Eckhardt

Now that our U.S. senators are on recess and back in the state, perhaps they will take some time to talk to their everyday constituents about their continued efforts to repeal Obamacare.

But probably not.

There is no good reason to think that U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso,
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo, in a 2013 photo.
both R-Wyo., who played key roles in crafting the latest effort to "replace" the national health insurance program, will veer even one step from their recent vows to continue to fight to get rid of Obamacare. As for listening, they refuse to hold town meetings for fear of what they might hear.

"I remain committed to passing a law that actually fulfills the promise of affordable and quality health care," a defiant Barrasso said last month as a seven-year effort to repeal Obamacare fell flat in the Senate.

A blind commitment to partisan politics apparently causes one's nose to grow. Despite Barrasso's assertion, the bill brought forth in the Senate was neither affordable -- it would have sent premiums soaring -- nor would it have provided quality care. Indeed, it would have robbed thousands of Wyoming residents of access to the Medicaid program. Repeating a lie, Mr. Senator, does not make it the truth.

It is past time that both Enzi and Barrasso stop listening to their party's leadership as well as their close friends and supporters, and actually hear what the people of this state are saying. The senators could start with the woman behind the counter at a local pharmacy who cornered me last weekend. She knows I used to work as editor at the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, and she wanted to know how she could get in contact with the senators.

"If my premiums go up any higher, I won't be able to afford health insurance at all," she told me. "They have to know that. I already can't afford care because my deductibles are so high. They are going to make it worse."

There are hundreds, nay thousands, of Wyoming residents who feel the same way. Indeed, polls before the July repeal effort showed that only one in three Wyomingites supported the measure pushed by Enzi and Barrasso while 46 percent were opposed. And recent data show that the vast majority of Americans -- no doubt including Wyomingites -- do not support the repeal effort; they want Obamacare repaired, not replaced.

There was a time when Enzi was known for reaching across the aisle to his Democratic peers to solve problems. Indeed, he and the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., joined hands years ago on an education bill. Now Enzi has become part of the problem. He has moved steadily into the arms of party leadership, where he has found Barrasso already firmly ensconced.

And if you asked either of these men, they would tell you that they love the people of Wyoming. Yet their actions speak louder than their words. The bill they supported would have kicked many Wyomingites, included the elderly and military veterans, off Medicaid and cranked premiums beyond the reach of many. Now they seem willing to let premiums rise ever higher in hopes that Obamacare will collapse of its own weight.

Both Barrasso and Enzi have the juice to get the health care debate headed in the right direction. How much better they would serve the people of this state if they joined hands with moderate Republicans and -- gasp! -- moderate Democrats to craft a measure that would meet their obligations to lead and serve rather than to pander to party bigwigs and slap down those who really need their help.

Both of these men should think about the woman that I spoke with at the pharmacy as well as the many others like her. In Wyoming, we help our neighbors; we don't ignore their cries. Now that our senators are home for a few weeks, perhaps they will be reminded of that.

D. Reed Eckhardt is the former executive editor of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

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