There is no better way to describe what is happening in the House Health and Human Services committee (HHSC) than with a very audible *sigh*. The juvenile dismissal of the policies (and their real-world implications) they are tasked with reviewing of was never funny, but the level of ideological playmaking and political shenanigans that has plagued this group of lawmakers since Day 1 is infuriating.
And, you should be raging about it. After all, they’re waving your tax dollars and our state’s public health structure around in the air like American flag boxers at a drunken Americans for Prosperity banquet.
At first, we laughed at the majority’s audacity to appoint Rep. Art Wittich (R-Bozeman) as the chair of the HHSC committee. Considering his pending 2016 court date for political malpractice, one would think that he would be asked to take a back seat in the clown-car of the HHSC, let alone lead be tasked as the ethical guide through the tumultuous world of a Montana legislative session. Yet, here we are.
Then, there was the subpoena of state workers. Not only was this move completely unnecessary (they provided testimony for the sake of testimony; it was not on behalf of any policy or agenda item being discussed), but the allegations these state workers made amounted to “I want to look at their Facebook pages!” and “I should be able to judge your application based on who you show up to the grocery store with!” Read more here to figure out why this was absurd so I don’t have to write it out.
On the same damn day in the same damn committee, a bill to drug-test welfare recipients was heard that gave no heed to the number of opponents in the room. When the chair asked who was there in support of the bill, roughly seven individuals raised their hands. When asked who was opposed, roughly twenty raised their hands. Want to know how much time the chair decided each side should get for public testimony? The same damn amount of time. One could argue that this is a petty outcry from a withering organizer during a grinding-at-best legislative session, but let’s be honest: cutting off public comment shows how much you care about public comment. Which is…not at all. The bill is now being given serious consideration despite the underwhelming results in several other states that have implemented the same program. Again, read more here so I don’t have to write it all out. Basically, the level of drug use found among welfare recipients in a similar state is 0.23%. Meanwhile, in Florida, the author of their Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients bill has been charged with possession of cocaine.
Don’t tell me there isn’t a war on the poor in this country.
Here’s the thing though, folks. There is a lot of policy left to be discussed in the House Health and Human Services committee.
They’re hearing a bill tomorrow at 3pm that essentially guts the existing State Board of Alternative Health in an effort to limit your choices in naturopathic health and midwives. And, the newly formed committee of non-naturopathic practitioners of medicine would also have the power to retroactively change the decisions of the existing board. Talk about government overreach. Oh, and did I mention that it’s expensive? I couldn’t make this up if I wanted to.
The committee has the ability to put this fiscally irresponsible, choice-inhibiting policy to rest. Will they? History says…no.
The Governor’s Healthy Montana Plan STILL doesn’t have a hearing date set. Four weeks later. Rep. Wittich clearly hasn’t actually read it, or is completely disinterested in you knowing he has, judging by his lame attempts at Medicaid expansion jabs on twitter (@ArtWittich , if he hasn’t blocked you yet). Meanwhile, the GOP Big Sky Plan alternative, which is significantly more expensive, doesn’t bring our tax dollars home, and only covers 15,000 of the 70,000 in the gap, now has a hearing scheduled for Wednesday after its introduction two days ago. There is no reason, other than fear, and a complete disregard for the democratic process of policy vetting, why the Big Sky Plan has a hearing and the Healthy Montana Plan does not. We’re not talking about whether or not to pay our legislators in gold bars here; we’re talking about the difference between 55,000 more people receiving life-saving access to healthcare.
We can do better than this. It is my sincere hope that the House Health and Human Services Committee gets their shit together so we can actually spend our time working to make our state better, rather than Facepalming at the absurd, ideological, movements of a few elected elites. This is a classic example of those in power exploiting the issues plaguing actual people to prove a point. It’s easy to believe the thesis that government doesn’t work when you’re part of the reason it doesn’t.
Care about any of the policies listed above? Call the capitol switchboard at 406-444-4800 and leave a message for the House Health and Human Services Committee. Or, you can leave a written message here. I still believe that we can influence this clown-car of a committee onto a better road.