Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why Does Texas Rep. Stockman's Sad Tale Reveal a Major Healthcare Hypocrisy?

by Nomad

Representative for Texas' 36th congressional district, Steve Stockman is desperate to unseat Republican Senator John Cornyn. Polls show Cornyn with a comfortable lead and plenty of cash reserves to wage an epic battle of the conservatives. 

There's another problem for Stockman. An episode from Stockman's past, bankruptcy which, he claims,  was a result of his father's medical bills, may not be easy to reconcile with his stand on Affordable Health Care for uninsured Texans.

When Rep. Steve Stockman's (R-TX) announced his decision to run against one of the most conservative members in the Senate, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), it didn't require a fortune-teller to predict there would be fireworks. If not a fireworks display, then it has turned out to be a Texas-sized pissing contest over who could be the most conservative.

Ask any Texan and he'll reckon that there's probably nobody on earth- including the residents of all insane asylums in the Longhorn state- who could possibly be more conservative than Stockman. 
But Cornyn comes pretty close.

In spite of Cornyn's lifelong American Conservative Union rating of a frightening 93 percent (which is 2 percent higher than Paul Ryan) Stockman has decided to label his opponent the worst epitaph he could think of- a liberal.
In many parts of Texas, calling people names like that will earn you a fat lower lip and a fractured snout.
Stockman launched his campaign by proclaiming:
I’m conservative Congressman Steve Stockman, and I am running for United States Senate against liberal John Cornyn...
So how does he figure that, you might ask? 
According to Stockman, Cornyn betrayed the cause to de-fund Obamacare and abandoned Republicans during the filibuster. You must remember that. It was the 21- hour filibuster that included a reading of Dr. Seuss, praises for White Castle hamburgers, and a Darth Vader imitation. Even Texas governor Rick Perry (whom Molly Ivans considered "not the sharpest knife in the drawer") derided Cruz's attention-getting ploy as "nonsensical."

There's just one problem with Stockman's strategy against his opponent. In his attempt to portray himself as the true conservative, Stockman has had to ignore a whole chunk of  painful experience. 
Somebody should warn Republicans that victimhood invites closer scrutiny. 

Stockman: The Hidden Years
According to his biography, Steve Stockman, was elected to the House in 2012 and previously served in the House from 1995 to 1997. Then he dropped out of politics. As Betsy Woodruff writing for the National Review puts it:
He basically just hung out for 16 years until redistricting created a new, redder-than-red district, on the eastern side of the Lone Star State, that he couldn’t not win if he made it through the primary and runoff elections.
During his time away from Congressional footlights, Stockman wasn't a layabout. Stockman worked for a few different conservative groups, including the Leadership Institute whose alumni include Mitch McConnell, Karl Rove, Grover Norquist: President, Americans for Tax Reform and Ralph Reed: former Executive Director Christian Coalition.

At the same time, Stockman explains that his ability to campaign was limited because of personal problems. Namely, the onset of his father's Alzheimer's disease. With Stockman as the full-time caregiver, the emotional burdens were draining, he explained, but it was the financial costs that forced him to declare bankruptcy in 2002.

It's Not Unusual
Stockman's tragic plight was not at all unique. According to a 2011 article in the New York Times,
Roughly 20 percent of those seeking financial counseling this year and last cited medical debt as the primary cause of their decision to seek bankruptcy protection, according to CredAbility, an Atlanta-based nonprofit credit counseling agency that serves clients nationally.
Some would say that figure is underestimating the problem. Some put the percentage as high as 75% of all bankruptcy are related to medical debt. (After weighing all of the conflicting sources, PolitiFact sets the figure at  29 percent.)

As recently as 2010, one in five American families had problems paying their medical bills. But early data from the first six months of 2011 show that the number had increased to nearly one in three.

Not surprisingly, if you were poorer, you were more likely to have had problems paying for medical care. But the key statistic is how this relates to health insurance.

Among the uninsured, nearly half had problems paying their medical bills - no surprise here. But fully 30 percent of those with private insurance also reported problems paying. And nearly 40 percent of those with public insurance had problems.
So there was two major problems, no insurance and crappy insurance. But even with the best private insurance, it is no exaggeration that unless you happen to be named Koch or Gates,  you like every American are just one major illness away from bankruptcy.

Texas Leading the Way
Last year, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote in an opinion column in the Dallas Morning News:
"Texas has the highest rate of uninsured in the nation. ... And there are more uninsured children in Texas than in any other state.
And the problem is getting worse. According to Gallup, 28.8% of adult Texans lacking healthcare coverage in 2012. Not only that but the margin between first and second place is growing wider.
So what is the state doing to make affordable health care- the law of the land- easier to obtain? Well, you be the judge. Just this week, state legislators decided to mandate training and background checks for anybody who tried to help consumers navigate the Affordable Care Act.
All registered navigators will be required to take 20 more hours of state-mandated training on top of roughly 25 hours he or she's already completed for the federal government. Other provisions include registering with the state, undergo a background check and get fingerprinted. But I thought conservatives didn't like more unnecessary regulations? 

Clearly many Texan voters- particularly the uninsured poor- can empathize with Stockman's past financial problem. Many of them will be facing bankruptcy too.

The problem is Stockman has a very limited supply of sympathy for them.

Re-Enacting the Alamo
Given his personal experience with home-wrecking medical bills, one would think Stockman would have become a crusader for Affordable Medical care. However, Stockman actually took his opponent to task for "siding with the President" by making sure ObamaCare became law while Ted Cruz did everything possible to stop it." In fact, it is all a smokescreen since, according to his office, Senator Cornyn had voted multiple times to de-fund and repeal ObamaCare. (However, he did know a lost cause when he saw one.)

In any case, here we are, and here is Obamacare. And there is the spectacle of arch conservatives Stockman and Cornyn arguing about who was the biggest failure in that Alamo-like defeat.

In the first snafu-plagued days of the Obamacare website, Stockman openly mocked the initial poor numbers with tweets like this one:

(Despite Stockman's knee-slapper of comparing healthcare for the poor to a sexually transmitted disease, more than 2.1 million Americans have signed up for health insurance as of the middle of January.)

People who know Stockman are not surprised by his behavior. His craving for outrageous remarks and trollish tweets seems insatiable. But if common sense and common humanity hasn't helped Stockman see the light about affordable health care, then you would think that his own bankruptcy and the stress of his own crushing medical debt would have.

Experience is a great teacher, but only to the wise.

More to the Story
After a little more research into this subject, the whole story about Stockman's bankruptcy seems a little suspect. 
According to an excellent investigation by the Houston Chronicle, Stockman's bankruptcy probably didn't have a lot to do with his father's medical bills, after all. (Heads up to researchers.. this link is an Easter Egg for you!)
By 2000, Stockman had begun a company in Harris County, Spool International, described in Stockman campaign literature as a fiber optics company. By 2001 Stockman had been sued in Harris County after allegedly issuing a bad check to pay for a monthly lease on a "Ditch Witch," a digging machine, that Stockman had obtained for that business, according to the civil suit and his subsequent bankruptcy. The Texas Workforce Commission placed a lien against Stockman for failing to pay an employee.
..In April 2002, Stockman and his wife had filed for a Chapter 7 - "liquidation" - bankruptcy. At the time, the couple declared less than $200,000 in assets and nearly $580,000 in debts. including the digging machine debts of $140,501, and credit card bills of $147,370, bankruptcy court records show.
Their bankruptcy was later discharged, and the civil suit was dismissed.
Admittedly there's nothing in this information that actually contradicts his claim of financial problems based on medical debt. 
Still, it just looks a little strange. Why? Because within a year after his bankruptcy- after his debts were discharged-  Stockman had plenty of cash to throw around. He had established at least three new businesses, in New Mexico. Nevada and the British Virgin Islands.
Strange how he managed to find this money only after he had declared bankruptcy and not when he was burdened with medical debt. Clearly the money for all of these schemes came from some place but where and how are anybody's guess.

As the election date grows closer, perhaps more will come out about this. You can bet your Stetson on it.