In remission and taking names

I was in DC on Thursday for some health advocacy, when a topless rather Goth young(er) woman ran up to me and wanted to give a hug. You’ll have to take my word for it that one kindof gets used to this sort of thing as a Twitter celebrity.* Still, I hesitated for a moment, and she said: “Thank you for the work you do,” and she held up her sign (see below fold).

She is a cancer survivor. She is now protesting the Senate health bill, given her preexisting condition and the rest. She’s in remission after punishing chemotherapy and other trials. She was loaded for bear like many people on this list. “It’s a little uncomfortable to see someone like this,” she said. But not as uncomfortable as chemo and surgery.

“You do you,” I said. “And be well.” We went our separate ways.

*Comment meant to be taken seriously not literally.
Continue reading “In remission and taking names”

Moderate mini-drama: It’s time for a little game theory on AHCA

Prediction: There will be some AHCA mini-drama with a key moderate who hesitates or refuses to sign on. The purpose of the mini-drama is to elevate that person to a key role. That moderate will extract some shiny-object concession such as a showy opioid treatment fund or ornamental consideration for medically-fragile children that don’t address the core difficulties of AHCA.

The strategic function of the mini-drama is threefold: (1) to make AHCA look slightly less hideous–ideally with a maximum of conservative grumbling–without actually fixing its deeper problems, which will remain in the final Senate version; (2) to help McConnell and the moderates quickly coordinate their bargaining, and (3) to provide a dignified political path for moderates to sign onto a bill they publicly criticized when the House passed something very similar barely a month ago.

Kathy Shorr’s SHOT: 101 Survivors of Gun Violence in America

I mentioned in another post, Kathy Shorr’s beautiful photo book SHOT: 101 Survivors of gun violence in America shows the beautiful human faces of survivors of American gun violence. You should buy a copy to support such humane work.

Photo courtesy of Kathy Shorr

As I mention over at,  Shorr’s book provides portraits and brief stories of 101 survivors of gun violence. Her photographs convey the lacerating damage firearms inflict.

I recently met two of the survivors, Mariam Pare and Ondelee Parteet, at a panel on gun violence. There are some nice pictures below the fold.

Both of them required years of costly rehabilitation and costly surgeries.  Tens of thousands of Americans every year experience serious gunshot wounds similar to that experienced by Rep. Steve Scalise and the people chronicled in Shorr’s book. If AHCA passes, it will leave millions of Americans uninsured. We should ask what will happen to gunshot survivors with similarly severe wounds who lack insurance coverage. Continue reading “Kathy Shorr’s SHOT: 101 Survivors of Gun Violence in America”

No donation to American Cancer Society this year

Dear American Cancer Society,

Please do not call our home this year asking for a donation. When you subsidize an unworthy figure who is snatching healthcare from millions of people, and weakening protections for cancer patients, I will give my charitable donations elsewhere.

Senator McCaskill calls out AHCA’s shambolic legislative product and process

Senator McCaskill blasted Republicans yesterday over the lack of hearings or basic transparency in Republicans’ effort to ram the AHCA through the Senate.

As Jonathan Chait and others note, Republicans have done everything to pass AHCA they falsely accused Democrats of doing to pass the Affordable Care Act eight years ago. ACA included dozens of hearings over many months, the Senate HELP committee and the Senate Finance committee adopted dozens of Republican amendments. They would have adopted many more, had Republicans not made the basic strategic decision to drag out the process and then simply bloc vote against ACA. AHCA is obviously a slipshod and rushed legislative product, being rammed through with no hearings, enacted in the House before a proper CBO score. In the rush to reach 50-percent+1, I expect some staffer’s girlfriend will be accidentally enacted into law.

A great irony of this process: President Obama paid a heavy political price because he entered the process with the avowed hope of bringing people together. He specifically incentivized Republican intransigence because he ran as someone who could heal Washington and bring people together. Whatever else happened, Republicans were determined that President Obama never be the person who brought people together. Democrats paid a policy price, too, making key concessions to Republicans and to their own party’s most conservative members. The Democratic party base probably won’t tolerate a similar strategy again.

Republicans never promised to engage Democrats in the process. And they are bluntly ramming things through. They won’t pay a particular political prices for that. But they will pay a heavy price for producing a substandard product that will hurt millions of people.

Republicans who vote/voted for AHCA earned the enmity of parents like Natalie Weaver

Good luck with that. These moms aren’t going anywhere.

You can only lie about policy in Washington, DC

Brendan Buck is Chief Communications Advisor to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Last week – Was it only last week? – Buck got in hot water because he falsely denied that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had said that Donald Trump and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher were being paid by Russia. When initially confronted, Buck flatly stated: “That never happened.” Confronted with the existence of a tape, Buck shifted gears to say that Rep. McCarthy was merely joking.

I’m glad Buck was called out for his lie. In fairness, this wasn’t entirely a lie. McCarthy was sort of joking. Of course, Buck’s comment wasn’t entirely truthful, either. The joke – to the extent it was a joke – rested on the accurate premise that President Trump and Rep. Rohrabacher are weirdly close to Vladimir Putin in a way that demands further scrutiny.

But here’s the real irony. Buck was humiliated over a lie that was far less significant – and really less of a lie – than many policy statements emerging from his own office that receive far less attention.


If you tell a verified lie about some political scandal, you are in trouble in Washington. You can’t say “I did not have sex with that woman,” or “I did not have communications with the Russians” without consequence. But if you lie about policy – for example to say that having Medicaid is no better than being uninsured, or that you are expanding access while leaving 23 million people without health insurance – you’ll usually get a pass. The disparate response to political lies and policy lies is one cause and symptom of our broken politics.

More here on policy lies in AHCA….

“Have you ever been treated for depression?”

Over the weekend on Twitter, I encountered a heartwarming picture of House Speaker Paul Ryan in cordial conversation with teenagers who have apparently survived childhood cancer.

That photo-op is unfortunate, since Speaker Ryan just passed a healthcare bill that allows states to waive consumer protections that bar insurers from charging higher premiums to childhood cancer survivors.

What’s gotten less attention is that insurers would have more opportunities to get into people’s personal business to charge sick people more. As a health services researcher, I understand why insurers have an incentive to ask: “Have you ever been treated for depression?” But it’s none of their business, and ACA quite rightly prohibited these practices.

More here.