During the 6 years they have controlled Congress, Washington Republicans have proven themselves incapable of improving our nation’s health care system. They wouldn’t work with President Obama to fix the ACA, and now they’ve shown they can’t even work with themselves.
Considering their ideas for health care would increase health care costs and cause anywhere between 23 and 32 million people to lose coverage, I’m glad Republicans are failing to put a bill on President Trump’s desk. But as a doctor, a public health leader, and former National Health Officer for YMCA, I also know that we can’t wait much longer to fix the huge gaps in care and out-of-control-costs of America’s health care system.
That’s why I’m running for Congress in Michigan’s Sixth Congressional District: to replace Congressman Fred Upton, the architect of the Republicans’ disastrous health care bill, which passed the House and led to all the drama in the Senate this week.
The Daily Kos community is well aware of how Upton single-handedly brought the Republican health care bill back to life in the House after caving to President Trump on a plan that would charge middle-class families and seniors more money for less care.
Imagine putting a member of Congress in Upton’s place who has dedicated their entire career to building coalitions to make healthier choices easier, and creating and running large and effective community health programs that have improved the lives of millions of children, families and seniors.
I’m proud to have served as the first physician leader in the Y’s 170-year history, and ran community health programs to improve health, lower costs and create jobs. One of these programs reduced new cases of diabetes by up to 71%, and will save Medicare at least $1.9 billion over 10 years by employing thousands of community health workers to help their neighbors live healthier lives. My team and I supported local community work in 250 other cities across the nation, positively impacting 73 million people. Earlier in my career, I led an innovative coalition in Chicago, which helped inform our former First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign.
It’s critical that we have a Democratic Congress to ensure efforts to fix health care are transparent and in our best interests. We must make sure the plans of President Trump and Republicans never become a reality as they will force middle class families to pay more for less care, cause millions with pre-existing conditions to lose coverage and gut long-term care for seniors.
Rural communities are most at risk from what we’ve seen come out of the House. Republican health care plans to cut Medicaid will force the closure of many local hospitals and clinics, which are often the largest employers in small towns. That would be a double whammy for rural America: a dramatic loss of health care and jobs.
Today, more than ever, voters also need to hear our vision to improve health care. I think progressive policy solutions like opening up Medicare to people under 65, which would give everyone access to an affordable, high-quality health care system is something we should pursue. But we can do more to increase access to high-quality and affordable health care, by further expanding coverage, focusing on preventing disease and reducing costs through the kind of community health programs that I helped pioneer. We must also allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for better prices, and continue the transformation of our health care system from one that pays for volume to one that pays for value.
Most importantly, we must take a broader view than just fighting disease. Health care is a human right. Trends in health care spending will not change overnight, no matter what policy prescription is being delivered. So, a long-view is needed. Epidemics of chronic disease are driving increases in health care spending, and we’ll be paying for the epidemics of today for a generation to come.
I’ve learned that to truly be successful, we need confront the spread of these conditions by helping people have a high quality of life, which means ensuring a safe and healthy environment, a good education and the opportunity for jobs that pay a living wage in addition to ensuring access to quality health care.
I will take this same comprehensive approach to Congress, where I will fight for a smarter health care policy, clean air and water, strong schools, early childhood education, vocational training, community colleges, opportunities to reduce student debt through community service, and a consistent focus on creating good-paying jobs.
During last year’s campaign, Republicans promised to deliver better care for a lower cost. So far, their plans would do the opposite, but I’ll work with anyone who truly wants to reach that goal. The pressure from the grassroots protests and town halls has forced many Republicans to reconsider towing the party line. Unfortunately, my Congressman Fred Upton isn’t one of them. He’s enabled Republican leaders to push through their harmful agenda. In Congress, I’ll do the opposite by standing up for patients and offering common-sense solutions based on my experience as a doctor and public health leader.
This won’t be an easy campaign. Congressman Upton has collected more than $13 million in campaign cash from special interests, including $3 million from the health care industry over his career. I will need the support of grassroots donors and the Daily Kos community to fight back against millions of dollars in false attack ads funded by Upton’s special interest donors.
But Democrats are more energized than ever and Washington politicians like Fred Upton are on the ropes. If Southwest Michigan wants change next November, there couldn’t be a clearer contrast between me and Fred Upton, who represents everything that’s wrong with Congress.
I look forward to answering your questions today and hope you will join my campaign. Thank you for all that you do.