The Republican plan for health care can best be summed up as, If you can’t pay for it, too bad, you just have to die! It’s not usually couched quite so baldly—we get words instead like “cost-savings” and “fiscal sustainability” and “choice”—but sometimes, people are honest about the true beliefs of Republican lawmakers. Case in point: the audio of a conversation Bev Veals, a cancer survivor, had with a staffer for Republican Senator Thom Tillis, during which the unnamed staffer compared buying health insurance to buying a “new dress shirt,” and that much like when he buys what is likely a hideous button-up, if you can’t afford health insurance, then you don’t get to have it.
According to WRAL, Veals is a three-time cancer survivor who in the past has had to declare medical bankruptcy. Due to financial fallout from the covid-19 pandemic—her husband was furloughed earlier this year, and she has been forced to dig into her retirement savings to keep her coverage—the North Carolina resident began worrying that she might lose her health insurance and started calling the offices of lawmakers like Tillis. “I wanted answers because the thought of having no health care and possibly getting sick with covid is extremely frightening,” she told WRAL. Her concern is a valid one—millions have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance already this year, which certainly underscores the fact that tying insurance coverage to a job at any time, but least of all during a pandemic, is perhaps a very bad idea.
As Veals told WRAL, she began recording the call with the Tillis staffer due to his “lack of empathy,” which is extremely apparent in the rest of their phone conversation:
“You’re saying that if you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it, you don’t get to have it, and that includes health care?” she asked at the beginning of her recording.
“Yeah, just like if I want to go to the store and buy a new dress shirt. If I can’t afford that dress shirt, I don’t get to get it,” he said.
“But health care is something that people need, especially if they have cancer,” she replied.
“Well, you got to find a way to get it,” he said.
“So what do I do in the meantime, sir?” Veals asked.
His response was callous, to say the least. “Sounds like something you’re going to have to figure out,” he said.
You can listen to the audio here:
I’ll say this: at least this Tillis staffer was honest. His boss, like most of his Republican colleagues, has vowed to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, voting for the ACA’s repeal several times while in Congress and describing it as a “mortal threat to our economy.” And while he was North Carolina’s Speaker of the House, Tillis took credit for the Republican effort to block the expansion of Medicaid, which would have provided health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians. “I am the speaker of the House who signed the bill that made it illegal to expand Medicaid under Obamacare,” he crowed in the past.
In a statement from Tillis’s office, a spokesperson told WRAL that the staffer’s behavior was “completely inappropriate and violates the code of conduct Senator Tillis has for his staff,” and that “immediate disciplinary action has been taken,” which I assume means that the staffer was yelled at for deviating from his talking points.