Even when it comes to symbolic gestures that have no real significance, it seems that Representative Zinke can’t help but make it clear he has no real interest in serving the people of Montana—unless those people are high-paid executives or conservative ideologues. Last week, the Congressman rolled out a “health care advisory committee”, a group of 25 people his press release said would “provide on the ground intelligence, insight and recommendations” on health care reform to the Congressman.
And who did Congressman Zinke select for his task force? The vast majority were CEOs and lobbyists of hospitals and insurance companies, certainly not the people I’d turn to to understand how health care is being received “on the ground.” The list does include a few doctors, but even there Zinke deferred to the right wing, selecting people like Representative Al Olszewski, who spent the last session pretending that an orthopedic surgeon was an expert on pregnancy.
Bizarrely, the committee also includes Billings businessman and anti-marijuana zealot Steve Zabala, who is listed as Chairman of Concerned Citizens of USA Committee, an organization that, according to Google, doesn’t actually exist other than in Zinke press releases.
As disappointing as who made Zinke’s list is, the list of those who didn’t is even more so. Patients? Nope. Health organizations like the American Cancer Society? Nope. People who’ve been bankrupted by the health care system? Nope. Patient advocacy groups? Nope. A representative from Montana’s Indian tribes? Nope.
One would have to be a fool to think that Representative Zinke will ever actually vote against what his party tells him on healthcare, but that he won’t even pretend to listen to the people back home who desperately need affordable health care is telling.