The miserable have no other medicine but only hope
— Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
Claudio was in prison hoping for a pardon to spare his life, but he could just as well have been foretelling of the lottery that passes for a U.S. health care system when Shakespeare penned those words for him. With the House of Representatives set to vote this weekend on landmark health care legislation, giving those without health insurance, or prospects for getting it, something besides hope, Idaho Blue Dog Congressman Walt Minnick and staff were penning an editorial on, what else but, financial regulation reform?
The editorial was followed by a brief notice today that, as he has indicated since July, he would in fact be voting against health care legislation tomorrow. Meanwhile, nearly 20 percent in his district are uninsured, ranking 304 among 436 congressional districts (including D.C.) and he is apparently doing nothing to ensure that his own campaign staff aren't among the uninsured.
Reforming financial regulation is crucial and although Minnick voted against the legislation in committee that he's now touting having written portions of, with a landmark vote on health care looming, perhaps his priorities are a little skewed. Although purely incidental, his regulation editorial did contain this one mention of health insurance:
That's why my managers would share motel rooms, rent economy cars and get the same health insurance as the newest file clerk. That's why when times got tough I cut my salary first and most before I asked anyone else to sacrifice.
We've heard this from Minnick before. In an interview for KUOI radio in Moscow while on the campaign trail last year, when asked how his company could afford to provide the same health insurance to all his employees Minnick responded:
We took that as a real priority in my company and whether you were a receptionist or drove a forklift in one of our plants you had the same insurance and we just thought it was important if you're going to keep employees long term. We [were able to afford it] because our employees worked harder, worked smarter and provided better customer service. ... Businesses are just people and if the people don't enjoy what they're doing and work hard and want to make the business successful there's no way management can make it successful, so we thought [providing health insurance] was a real priority.
Apparently, Minnick thought more of his business employees than his campaign staff. According to his finance reports, the campaign provided none of them with health insurance. In 2008, while enjoying his employer-sponsored insurance and traveling around the state advocating universal access to comprehensive, affordable coverage, unless they had means to obtain their own, Minnick's campaign staff went without.
During the 2008 election cycle, of Minnick's paid campaign staff, the eleven who were on the payroll for six months or longer were paid (excluding bonuses) on average an amount equivalent to an annual wage of just over $29,000, assuming they worked the entire year and at the same rate. These prorated salaries ranged from $11,000 for the communications assistant to $63,000 for the campaign manager brought on for the final months of the campaign.
This means that not only was health insurance not provided for his paid staff, interestingly enough, at the salary the campaign was paying, every one of them would fall below the income limit making a family of four eligible for affordability credits under the current House proposal. The proposal provides affordability credits on a sliding scale for those who can't get coverage through an employer or other means and who cannot afford to purchase a policy on their own. The credits are phased out for incomes above 400 percent of the poverty level, or $43,320 per year for an individual and $88,200 for a family of four.
No one on Minnick's 2008 campaign staff made anywhere near the limit for a family of four and only his campaign manager was making more than the individual limit, meaning that had this legislation been in effect then and they met the other requirements, they would have been eligible for financial assistance to purchase their own policies.
Minnick's records show that his campaign staff for the current election cycle who don't also work on his congressional staff are not provided health insurance either. While the campaign recently touted going over the $1 million mark in fundraising for the 2010 election cycle and reported close to $650,000 in cash on hand, he apparently can't afford heath insurance for his employees. But he adamantly opposes the legislation that would keep them from numbering among the uninsured.
Most campaign workers, paid or otherwise, aren't in it for the money. Most put in the long hours because they believe in a cause and are trying to make a difference. It's hard to imagine that any of those working tirelessly for little compensation and no benefits to put Walt Minnick over the edge last year did so believing he would be the most conservative member of the Northwest delegation. In fact at least some of them most assuredly did not.
After ensuring that he was reimbursed for every nickle of his own money spent while campaigning—down to each last soda pop (seriously)—the least Walt could do, if he's going to vote against health care reform, is to make sure those he employs have insurance. They don't deserve anything less than the person driving a forklift at SummerWinds.
All Idahoans deserve a health care plan that includes more than hope. Unfortunately Walt has other priorities.