Blanche Lincoln-- D-Day Approaches
Regular working families in Arkansas don't have anyone in the Senate looking after their interests-- but WalMart and other Big Businesses in that state have two, Mark Pryor-- who didn't even have a Republican opponent when he ran for re-election last year-- and Blanche Lincoln, who has to face the voters next year-- and has half a dozen Republicans, a Democrat and two independents who all want to challenge her. On and off all summer long Blue America has been running TV spots that have helped remind regular Arkansas families that Lincoln does not work for them. Please, watch the 3 cable TV spots. From the time we started running them until now, her job approval ratings have sunk like a stone. And smelling blood, other groups are moving in for the kill. Today just 43% of Arkansans approve and 49% disapprove. Independents have deserted her in droves-- only 39% approval-- and her Democratic base is starting to recognize that a corporate shill like Lincoln doesn't have anything to do with Democratic Party ideals or principles. Her approval rating among Democrats is down to 66%.
Similar to most southern states, a vocal minority, in the high 30 percentile, opposes meaningful health care reform-- primarily Republicans. That leaves 55% of Arkansas voters in favor of the public option. And that's a state that was among McCain's top half dozen electoral performances.
The media narrative, predictably, is not that Lincoln has betrayed working families in return for huge thinly disguised bribes from insurance companies and the medical-industrial complex. Rather, as exemplified in today's Politico it is that Republicans are able to take advantage of Obama's unpopularity in the state to harm her, without mentioning that she's among the Senate Democrats who works most diligently to sabotage Obama not just on health care reform but on all his major initiatives, from Employee Free Choice and fair tax policies to energy and environmental reform (which she opposes).
While working in the shadows to undermine meaningful reform-- she's on the health subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee-- Lincoln has been slick enough to always avoid answering questions about where she specifically stands on reform. That's about to end.
Next week Lincoln will have to put the debate to rest when an amendment in the Senate Finance Committee inserting a public plan in the Baucus bill is scheduled for action.
Lincoln has two things going for her as she faces dismal re-election prospects-- a massive campaign warchest funded by the corporations whose special interests she is always looking out for to the detriment of her constituents and the lack of a credible Republican opponent. The six clowns in the race against her so far look like a circus routine.
While Bush was president-- and Blanche senator-- the number of uninsured in Arkansas has increased from 415,000 to 505,000 (2001-2008). Almost a quarter of non-elderly Arkansans now have no health insurance and the percentage of people with employer-based coverage decreased from 63.9% of the population in 2001 to 57.9% in 2008. While Lincoln labors to enact legislative priorities for her Medical-Industrial Complex paymasters-- she's their second biggest electoral investment in the current cycle, after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid-- the kinds of runaway insurance costs she supports are destroying Arkansas working families financially. If the kind of bill President Obama and the House passes-- the kind of legislation Lincoln adamantly, if surreptitiously, opposes here's how it will effect ordinary Arkansas families:
• Ending the Hidden Tax-- Saving You Money: Right now, providers in Arkansas lose over $656 million in bad debt which often gets passed along to families in the form of a hidden premium “tax.” Health insurance reform will tackle this financial burden by improving our health care system and covering the uninsured, allowing the 84 hospitals and the 6,684 physicians in Arkansas to better care for their patients.
• Health Insurance Premium Relief: Premiums for residents of Arkansas have risen 81% since 2000. Through health insurance reform, 452,000 to 518,100 middle class Arkansas residents will be eligible for premium credits to ease the burden of these high costs.
• Strengthening Small Businesses: 39,575 employers in Arkansas are small businesses. With tax credits and a health insurance exchange where they can shop for health plans, insurance coverage will become more affordable for them.
• Reforms that Reduce Your Costs: Under health insurance reform, insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive. Insurance companies will also have to abide by yearly limits on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses, helping 24,200 households in Arkansas struggling under the burden of high health care expenses.
• Insurance Stability and Security: Health insurance reform will strengthen our system of employer-based health insurance, with an additional 25,100 people in Arkansas potentially getting insurance through their work. Health insurance reform will also ensure that you will always have guaranteed choices of quality, affordable health insurance if you lose your job, switch jobs, move or get sick.
• Eliminating Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions, Health Status or Gender: 10% of people in Arkansas have diabetes, and 31% have high blood pressure-- two conditions that insurance companies could use as a reason to deny you health insurance. Health insurance reform will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on your health, and it will end discrimination that charges you more if you’re sick or a woman.
• One-Stop Shopping – Putting Families in Charge: With the new health insurance exchange, you can easily and simply compare insurance prices and health plans and decide which quality affordable option is right for you and your family. These proposals will help the 485,800 residents of Arkansas who currently do not have health insurance to obtain needed coverage, and it will also help the 127,600 Arkansas residents who currently purchase insurance in the individual insurance market.
• Guaranteeing Choices: The largest health insurer in Arkansas holds 69% of the market, which limits the choices that you have for finding coverage. With a competitive public insurance option, you will have more choices and increased competition that holds insurance companies accountable.
• Preventive Care for Better Health: 45% of Arkansas residents have not had a colorectal cancer screening, and 26% of women have not had a mammogram in the past 2 years. By requiring health plans to cover preventive services for everyone, investing in prevention and wellness, and promoting primary care, health insurance reform will work to create a system that prevents illness and disease instead of just treating it when it’s too late and costs more.
• Improving Care for Children and Seniors: 25% of children in Arkansas have not visited a dentist in the past year, and 28% of seniors did not receive a flu vaccine. Health reform will ensure coverage for kids’ dental, vision, and hearing needs, and will promote quality coverage for America’s seniors, including recommended immunizations.
What can you do about it? You can e-mail her. You can call her: 202-224-4843. You can fax her: 202-228-1371. And then there's the Blue America Campaign For Health Care Choice.