NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

Maria Cantwell’s trio of Seattle town halls begins successfully at UW’s Kane Hall

Activists who have been long­ing for Wash­ing­ton State’s U.S. Sen­a­tors to start hold­ing town hall meet­ings got their wish ful­filled last night when Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell host­ed the first of three town halls planned for the Seat­tle area, focused on health­care (and per­haps more specif­i­cal­ly, threats to health­care).

If the event had to be sum­ma­rized in one word, it might be infor­ma­tive; many peo­ple in atten­dance remarked that they had added to their knowl­edge by com­ing. The stand­ing ova­tion at the end sig­ni­fied par­tic­i­pants’ appre­ci­a­tion for the smooth­ly run and thought­ful­ly exe­cut­ed event. Ques­tions asked by con­stituents ranged from moth­ers won­der­ing about the exten­sion of Med­ic­aid to their sons to phys­i­cal ther­a­pists won­der­ing if ER cov­er­age would be brought to rur­al areas.

Through­out the night, it was clear that Cantwell and oth­er Sen­ate Democ­rats would be com­mit­ted to stop­ping Trump­cuts by any means nec­es­sary. Cantwell fre­quent­ly chal­lenged  Repub­li­cans to debate her on the Sen­ate floor, stat­ing that their refusal to engage so far was evi­dence that they did­n’t have a win­ning argu­ment.

Sav­ing the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act from oblit­er­a­tion or sab­o­tage is extreme­ly impor­tant, because as Cantwell not­ed, lives are on the line.

Maria Cantwell hosting a healthcare town hall

Maria Cantwell smiles as she lis­tens to a con­stituent ques­tion at her health­care town hall (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

When asked about ris­ing pre­mi­ums, the Sen­a­tor rein­forced the impor­tance of con­serv­ing the “things that are work­ing” like the expan­sion of Med­ic­aid and new fam­i­ly-friend­ly insur­ance plans being offered in states like New York.

Sus­tained applause and cheers broke out when a con­stituent point­ed out that “sin­gle-pay­er health­care is favored by most Amer­i­cans.”

(Last week, half of the respon­dents to NPI’s lat­est research poll said they strong­ly sup­port­ed expand­ing Medicare to pro­vide uni­ver­sal cov­er­age to all Amer­i­cans; anoth­er 14% said they some­what sup­port­ed the idea, for a total of 64%.)

Per­haps the best moment came at the end, when a young woman asked Cantwell if she would encour­age her col­leagues to con­vene some kind of emer­gency or spe­cial meet­ing to address how we can fight the cli­mate cri­sis in the wake of Don­ald Trump’s deci­sion to with­draw from the Paris cli­mate accords and gut the EPA.

As she lis­tened to con­stituents’ sto­ries, Cantwell expressed strong sym­pa­thy for those stuck in the mid­dle, indi­vid­u­als who are wealthy enough to not qual­i­fy for Med­ic­aid, but not rich enough to afford insur­ance on their own.

So did peo­ple in the crowd. Audi­ence mem­bers could be seen empathiz­ing, often tear­ing up, when hear­ing a sto­ry about a fam­i­ly mem­ber with a crit­i­cal health con­di­tion who received life-sav­ing care thanks to the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act.

One man, a can­cer sur­geon, shared that his son, when diag­nosed with leukemia, wouldn’t have been able to get health insur­ance with­out the PPA.

Anoth­er woman, frus­trat­ed with the lack of non­prof­it opi­oid reha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ters in Seat­tle, offered a plea for help and stressed the impor­tance of a grass­roots move­ment to pro­vide care for peo­ple strug­gling with addic­tion.

Cantwell told par­tic­i­pants that she believes in uni­ver­sal health cov­er­age, and said she could sup­port what­ev­er approach gets us there the quick­est.

Of course, with Repub­li­cans in total con­trol of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, progress is going to have to hap­pen at the state lev­el. Cantwell explained the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act does con­tain a clause allow­ing states to pur­sue set­ting up a sin­gle-pay­er sys­tem, but that would go away if Repub­li­cans suc­ceed­ed in gut­ting the PPA.

Joined onstage by Dean Ram­sey, CEO of UW Med­i­cine, who read out num­bers giv­en to peo­ple who had signed up to ask ques­tions, Cantwell repeat­ed­ly inter­spersed her com­men­tary on the Repub­li­can plot to do away with the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act with praise of our state for its cut­ting-edge pri­ma­ry care sys­tem.

The rest of the coun­try ought to fol­low our exam­ple, Cantwell said. She laud­ed Wash­ing­ton as a pio­neer for excel­lent, pub­licly fund­ed health­care — once stop­ping to (as she put it), “geek out” with maps and graphs.

Though many con­stituents were plain­ly wor­ried about what might hap­pen in the U.S. Sen­ate in the weeks to comes, a spir­it of resis­tance per­vad­ed the gath­er­ing. Cantwell encour­aged atten­dees to con­tin­ue the fight to save the PPA.

Cantwell will hold two more town halls this week. One will take place tomor­row (Fri­day July 7th) and the oth­er will be on Sat­ur­day (July 8th). The Fri­day town hall will be focused on net neu­tral­i­ty and the Sat­ur­day town hall will be a wide-rang­ing dis­cus­sion with no spe­cif­ic focus. Both are open to the pub­lic but require tick­ets.

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