By Bill Minor
JACKSON – Gregg Harper, the Rankin County Republican who occupies Mississippi’s 3rd District seat in the U.S. House, in a July 16 column attacking the AARP secondarily let us senior citizens know he’s trying to dismantle the Medicare program we have counted on as a health care safety net.
Harper, still a greenhorn in Congress, was elected in 2008 to fill the made-to-order GOP seat Chip Pickering suddenly gave up amid unexplained circumstances (we can guess after his estranged wife filed an alienation of affections lawsuit against another woman.)
Harper obviously has joined the gang of rightwing GOP fanatics elected in 2010. Their goal is to strip away every vestige of social programs enacted under FDR or LBJ that benefit the elderly or struggling Americans who live on the edge of poverty. They would take us back to the “good old days” of such Republican stalwarts as Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.
Now comes smarty pants Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin who rolls out a draconian budget-cutting plan that includes privatizing Medicare. Remember in 2002 George W. Bush proposed privatizing Social Security? It lasted as long as the proverbial snowball in Hades. Harper, marching in lockstep with House GOP leadership, voted down the line for the Ryan plan, which, incidentally, would also repeal President Obama’s affordable health care law. Retired Dr. Alton Cobb, former state Health Officer, says the Obama law would be a “bonanza” for the state in its Medicaid block grants alone.
The GOP congressman refers to an April 2011 “report” which he says exposes AARP’s profitable insurance ventures. He fails to mention that the report was prepared by two of his Republican colleagues in the House. I too am not pleased that AARP got into the Medigap business after the Bush Administration in 2003 pushed through its Medicare prescription drug plan that handed the pharmaceutical industry a $400 billion gift, including the outrageous “donut hole” which Obama is now trying to close.
But let’s zero-in on Harper. He occupies what historically was Sonny Montgomery’s seat. When Sonny after 30 years decided to step down in 1996, I had written that we military veterans had lost the “best friend veterans ever had in Congress.” I had questioned if his successor in the 3rd District would pick up his mantel. Harper obviously hasn’t come close to it.
VA health care is my only primary health care coverage and I’m pleased my late friend, Sonny Montgomery helped provide it.
I must say the out patient clinics at the VA have served me well, but more and more medical procedures are having to be outsourced to private doctors because the VA does not have staff physicians to do them. Basically, as I see it, the VA can’t pay enough to lure specialists who can make much more money in private practice. Also, I note that private sector doctors have to be hired on an hourly basis in order to man the Urgent Care clinic. Even then, recently I had to wait four and a half hours to see a doctor to treat skin tears and check for a possible concussion after taking a fall. Just a few things a congressman who guards the nation’s purse strings ought to know.
Columnist Bill Minor has covered Mississippi politics since 1947. Contact him through Ed Inman at email@example.com.