Congress Must Help Arizonans with Health Coverage

Tyler Montague, President Public Integrity Alliance, Inc.

Arizonans have high expectations of our elected officials in Washington, but measuring up isn’t complicated. Operate with integrity. Listen to families’ concerns. And doggedly represent the interests of regular Americans in a capital awash in powerful and often corrupt influence.

Now as trillions of dollars flow from government in response to the COVID-19 crisis, principled leadership is more important than ever. Hard-working families are hurting, and their needs—not the wish lists pressed by lobbyists and big donors—must be the top priority.

Rampant unemployment means far too many Americans are surviving today without a paycheck, and as many as 27 million may have lost their employer-provided health coverage. Their ranks include a large proportion of the nearly 900,000 Arizonans who have been forced to seek unemployment assistance since the coronavirus pandemic began.[1] [2]

This is the backdrop against which U.S. Senator Martha McSally runs to retain her seat against some stiff competition. To prevail, she’ll need to demonstrate that she understands what families are going through and that she has the tenacity to fight and win on their behalf.

There exists right now a prime opportunity for Senator McSally to prove her mettle to voters. She should propose a health coverage solution to include in the next COVID-19 relief bill, so families needn’t cower any longer in fear of inaccessible healthcare or mounting medical bills. Such a plan should incorporate market-based, time-limited remedies to help employers sustain health coverage through the pandemic, as well as offering the recently unemployed ways to keep the coverage they depend on or find an alternative.

If Senator McSally and her colleagues want other stimulus measures they favor, such as her tourism-focused American TRIP Act, to have any effect, they must first act on health coverage.[3] What’s holding the economy back is no longer the sweeping government lockdowns of March and April—it is the rational concern among many recently uninsured families that they simply cannot afford to get sick.

With reliable health coverage, on the other hand, American families would be more financially secure and could spend more freely. A robust middle class return to the marketplace would have an immediate, positive impact on companies’ revenues, growth, and rehiring and would reduce the need for ongoing government intervention to prop up the economy.

With health coverage, Americans could also continue to take personal responsibility for their own wellness. They could seek preventive care or obtain prescription medications to control underlying medical conditions, for example, and thereby minimize the incidence of severe disease and disability, not to mention the burden on our currently overwhelmed hospitals. 

A healthy country is a good in itself, but it is also the wellspring of economic strength. As we beat back a coronavirus resurgence and U.S. businesses regain traction, they will need millions of employees ready to work. Maintaining health coverage in the meantime will help ensure a robust workforce is there when called.

The key to successful recovery will be to enact the right health coverage solutions, however, not to permanently stifle the economy with the government-run healthcare schemes of the far-left. “Medicare for All” and similar plans represent a dangerous expansion of the bureaucratic state. Such proposals would expose the entirety of the U.S. healthcare system to fraud and other abuses of the public trust. Imagine if lobbying and political donations were to shape decisions about who qualified for medical care and when they could receive it—it’s a nightmare scenario America must avoid.

Unfortunately, the only thing necessary for the triumph of disastrous policy, to paraphrase Edmund Burke, is for good people to do nothing. If Republicans offer no compelling answers on health coverage, they risk devastating losses in November. In an era dominated by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other avowed socialists, worse outcomes than Obamacare will likely follow a Democratic takeover in Washington.

Why, then, does Mitch McConnell so far appear content to do nothing and court disaster? Senator McSally must convince him otherwise. To attempt to do so is admittedly test of courage. She would need to take on the economic and public health denialism to which some Republicans, including our President, still cling. But the same woman who in March demanded that Senators stop receiving paychecks until they did their jobs and voted to help out-of-work families can certainly handle the pressure. [4] She can once again take a stand for average Americans and bring them the health coverage relief they desperately need.


[1] https://tucson.com/business/at-least-631-000-arizonans-have-sought-regular-jobless-benefits-in-pandemic/article_ee979eee-34af-5970-b5cf-890ae7c0e9f8.html   

[2] The 900,000 is the regular, state unemployment plus federal programs to help contractors, others who wouldn’t otherwise qualify. Both numbers are in the article linked above.

[3] https://fortune.com/2020/06/23/more-stimulus-checks-coronavirus-help-vacation-vouchers/

[4] https://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/laurieroberts/2020/03/24/arizona-sen-martha-mcsally-paychecks-stimulus/2908291001/


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