While Mitch McConnell hid out from angry constituents, Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth actually listened to the people of Kentucky.
Kentucky’s only Democratic lawmaker in Congress, Rep. John Yarmuth, rallied his constituents to keep “speaking out” on health care at a packed town hall held right in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s backyard.
And in return, he received a standing ovation for his staunch support of the Affordable Care Act and opposition to the Republican plan to dismantle Medicaid.
Addressing one of the disabled activists who was forcibly removed from the hallway outside of McConnell’s office on Capitol Hill, Yarmuth emphasized the importance of constituent action, saying, “People like you. That’s the reason the bill failed. It’s because people are speaking out.”
With more than 700 attendees filling an auditorium at a local Catholic university in Louisville, Yarmuth’s call to action met an extremely receptive audience, as people rose to voice their concerns for themselves and for their fellow Kentuckians.
One young mother with cancer told Yarmuth, “I’m not scared to die. But I’m scared to leave my children. If this goes into effect, I fear that will happen much sooner.”
A retired cleric who works with the poor exclaimed, “I see patients who will die. These are people!”
Some of the attendees reiterated their concerns to local media following the town hall:
SUZANNE BUSSE: With the one medication, if I didn’t have insurance and Medicare, would be more than $6,000 a year. I pay under $100 a year. So, big difference, yeah.
SUSAN SMITH: We’re all going to have to agree that there has to be some single-payer option that is fair for everyone that we all contribute to. I paid Medicare taxes for a long time as I was working, and now I, you know, am able to use it.
GEORGE SALES: It’s a fundamental right that all of us – just because you’re wealthy shouldn’t mean that you can survive and everyone else should die because they can’t afford health care.
Kentucky has seen remarkable success through Kynect, the state’s health insurance exchange set up under Obamacare. The number of uninsured adults decreased from 20 percent to less than eight percent within just three years.
And Kentucky also participated in Medicaid expansion, leading to significant and measured improvements in access to care, financial security, and health among the 440,000 people — primarily those among the working poor — who signed up.
But McConnell — who last campaigned on a seemingly hypocritical promise to repeal Obamacare but to keep Kynect intact — seems uninterested in touting those achievements, as he continues to plot how to bribe lawmakers into stripping health care from millions of Americans, while in hiding from his own constituents and health care advocacy groups.
But Yarmuth showed Kentuckians that he stands with them, that he will keep fighting for their right to health care, and urged them on with a call to action. And that is what real leadership looks like.