My Stand as a Lobbyist
by Seth Cagin
Nov 04, 2009 | 2651 views | 7 7 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print

As one of about 130 small business owners invited to Washington early this week to lobby for health care reform, I often felt like the smallest bit player in an enormous unfolding drama. But in working to advance this just cause, we were assured, we all have a part to play.

We were there to tell our stories of how insane health care costs are bankrupting us. My own story came to the attention of the Colorado Public Interest Group, or COPIRG, when I wrote a column about the fact that my small family, consisting of just Marta and Carlos and me, spent over $30,000 last year, between our premiums and our out-of-pocket co-pays on health care.

From Colorado we were a community newspaper publisher from the Western San Juans, a bakery owner from Pueblo, a landscape company owner from Pueblo, a candy store owner from Fort Collins, and a few others: all of us struggling to provide health care for ourselves and our employees.

It is, by now, a familiar litany of woes: Insurance costs that keep going up as benefits are reduced; people whose coverage is dropped right when they need it most, because they are ill; pre-existing conditions making it impossible for people to get coverage; people trapped in the wrong job for fear of losing health insurance if they quit; families forced into bankruptcy.

The primary objection from the right to fixing all of this is that it will cost too much. But the problem with leaving it unfixed is that the status quo costs far more.

You might think Washington would be in a frenzy as the bills in Congress near a vote. There’s actually a lot more noise on cable television. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet told us that he remains hopeful that the legislation will get stronger, not weaker, as it gets closer to a vote. The politicians have a strong incentive to get this done right, he said.

Sen. Tom Harkin said that momentum is building as we near the finish line. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said that the opposition grows louder as victory drawn closer. All of the Washington insiders – the young staff members of advocacy organizations, USPIRG, the Main Street Coalition, Consumer Reports, and Small Business Majority, who jointly planned the Small Business DC Day; our elected representatives and their staff; and members of the Obama Administration – all emphasized that history is being made. We are closer than we’ve been in 70 years to finally reforming the health care system!

Speak out, we were urged. Small business is the engine of the American economy, and small business is crippled by health care costs. We need health care reform not only to stay healthy, but in order to do our part to repair the economy.

We in Colorado’s Third Congressional District are fortunate to be represented by three members of Congress who strongly support the effort: Rep. John Salazar, and senators Bennet and Mark Udall. To them, my message was simple: Thank you for your work and support. We – meaning small businesses – need you to succeed. And please don’t allow the legislation to be weakened as it moves to a final vote. Don’t compromise away the core reforms we need in order to win Joe Lieberman’s or Olympia Snowe’s vote.

Most of the other small business owners had been brought to Washington because they are not so fortunate. They are represented by key members of Congress who may just vote no because they can’t accept the public option if it’s included, or for some other abstruse reason. I sat next to a couple of small business owners from Connecticut who had an appointment to meet with their “maverick” senator, Joe Lieberman, the next day. They were pondering what they might say to him that might deter him from joining a Republican filibuster, as he has said he will do. Others from Louisiana were set to meet with Sen. Mary Landrieu; those from Nebraska had an appointment with Sen. Ben Nelson. Given the 60 Democratic votes needed to break a filibuster, every one of them is crucial.

“Even if we disagree on some specific details,” Sen. Landrieu said, at a meeting we all attended, “we agree that the status quo is not sustainable.” Is this a hint that in the end, even if she can’t weaken the public option, she’ll be there, on the right side?

In politics, the stakes don’t get any higher than this. In Washington, something big is about to happen. The payoff for electing President Obama is in sight. We are witnesses to history.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Say What....
November 10, 2009
Hey Free Man... How about that antitrust exemption that protects insurance companies from competition? Insurance companies and major league baseball are the ONLY TWO businesses protected from antitrust. How about that?
A Free Man
November 10, 2009
I prefer Freedom over Communism/Socialism, What must be done is rewriting the interstate compact laws in order to keep americans FREE, Duh! insurance companys must be able to compete in order to drive down costs, Typical bunny loving tree hugging attitude, oh ya the world is going to end because the sun will torch us all... HA!
to access older news
November 05, 2009
You can click on the "news" link in the "home" dropdown menu at the top of the page and browse the news page.

If you're looking for something specific, you can enter key words in the search field and come up with a list of relevant stories.
November 05, 2009
For the record: The Watch made no endorsements in the last Telluride election and employs staff with diverse points of view on the issues. Face is correct that our website can seem somewhat arbitrary in how stories show up. We do our best to rotate major stories on the home page and the Telluride election story IS on the homepage rotation.

FaceOnMars (nli)
November 05, 2009
They just had a recent news cycle which basically sent the story to the bottom of what's immediately available under Home: News.

It does illustrate how their archive is not readily accessibly via a simple browse (i.e. a link at bottom of "Home: News" which says "read older stories" with a page numbering system).

I definitely don't think it was intentional, but do believe it to be interesting that both newspapers essentially backed the same "pro-development slate".

November 05, 2009
Where's the Telluride election story? Could it be that the Watch's favored real estate slate got pounded so there is no story from the Watch?
November 04, 2009
Seth-great points on traps..those trapped in bad plans or places and those trapped out..

I do wish Obama would man up; Sen. Reid and Speaker Pelosi have carried the water for Pres. O.

Where is O?

We need a strong robust complete public option-where everyone can participate in the insurance coverage that I enjoy. We need litigation reform. We need wholistic change in how we approach our health through our diet, our exercise, our lifestyle, our medical care providers.

Where is O?

Next year will be too late...2010 - all the middle of the road dems will vaporize and lose their courage to vote for change.

The time for President Obama to be President is now.