I’m a cancer patient. I’ve been through nine surgeries and 55 radiation treatments, and my medical care has cost more than $1 million. Though it hasn’t been easy, I know not everyone is as lucky as I am. Without access to the care I’ve received, I wouldn’t be here.
We all know that too many Mainers living without health insurance get left behind by our health care system. And for many of those who have coverage, the burden of copays and unbelievably expensive prescription drugs still weighs heavy.
That’s why I am so bothered by the fact that Sen. Susan Collins enthusiastically supported the Republican tax law that gave away nearly $100 billion in tax breaks to drug and health insurance companies. She was so intent on passing those tax cuts that she supported the bill even though it also repealed crucial elements of the Affordable Care Act and potentially put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block.
By repealing a key provision of the ACA, Collins and other Republicans put everyone’s coverage in jeopardy and laid the groundwork for a lawsuit that was filed in Texas that threatens to overturn the entire ACA.
For the first time since 2010, more Americans are without health care coverage than were in the previous year. Experts have made it clear: the reason that 2 million more Americans are uninsured this year is because of Republican efforts to sabotage our health care. As a Mainer, I’m sad to say that these efforts were supported — and at times championed — by Collins.
Collins’ vote for the tax bill didn’t just jeopardize our health care, though.
The new tax law also leaves Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security vulnerable to benefit cuts because of its dramatic $2.3 trillion increase in the national debt. In fact, just days after pushing through the tax law, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the only way to lower the record-high budget deficit Republicans created would be to cut Medicare and Social Security. Other colleagues of Collins, including Sen. Marco Rubio, weren’t shy about their plans to cut these programs.
Make no mistake: if the health care repeal lawsuit in Texas is successful, Collins should shoulder plenty of the blame. Because of passage of the GOP tax law, coverage for hundreds of thousands of Mainers — and millions of Americans — is at risk. If the rising national debt created by the Republican tax bill is used as justification for cuts to Medicare and Social Security, Collins deserves blame there as well.
Collins and some of her allies are not happy with folks like me who are pointing out her disappointing record of prioritizing tax cuts over our health care. I’ve been accused of trying to “ deceive voters” and “ intimidate our elderly citizens.”
To be honest, it’s upsetting to be accused by a United States senator of trying to “intimidate” Mainers who are going through the same struggles as me — or worse. But after what I’ve been through in my battle with cancer, I can take it.
If Collins and her friends are bothered by those of us talking about her record in Washington, perhaps she should have considered a different approach at the time. But whatever the case, criticism from my senator and her allies isn’t going to stop me from shining a light on her record of siding with big corporations at the expense of Mainers.
David “Stretch” Tuemmler of North Yarmouth is a photographer and owner of Stretch Studio in Portland. He appeared in a commercial by Maine Momentum that was critical of Sen. Susan Collins.