North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis — viewed as one of the most vulnerable GOP senators in 2020 — has found himself in an uncomfortable situation after a staffer’s excessively honest comments to a constituent were caught on tape.
As first reported by WRAL, Bev Veals of Carolina Beach, a three-time cancer survivor, called her senator out of fear that her health insurance was at risk. She has previously faced medical bankruptcy and difficulty accessing care, WRAL said, and her husband was furloughed because of the pandemic. She wanted assurance that she’d have coverage if she lost her health insurance.
But Tillis’s office wasn’t helpful. While speaking to a dismissive staffer, Veals began to record their conversation, which was provided to WRAL and can be viewed above.
“You’re saying that, if you can’t afford it, you don’t get to have it?” she asked. “That includes health care?”
“Yeah, just like if I want to go to the store and buy a new dress shirt. If I can’t afford that dress shirt, I don’t get to get it,” the staffer explained.
“But health care is something that people need!” Veals said, clearly alarmed. “Especially if they have cancer.”
“Well, you got to find a way to get it,” the staffer said.
“So what do I do in the meantime, sir?” she asked, not hiding the irritation in her voice.
The response was snide: “Sounds like something you’re going to have to figure it out.”
Tillis’s office has apologized after Veals came forward about the exchange: “The way Mrs. Veals was talked to by a staff assistant in our Washington office was completely inappropriate and violates the code of conduct Senator Tillis has for his staff, which is why immediate disciplinary action has been taken.”
But the truth is that, insensitive and rude as the staffer’s comments to Veals were, they were simply a much more honest reflection of the Republican Party’s policies on health care than officials typically admit. But the truth isn’t hard to see. The Trump administration is currently arguing that the Supreme Court should overturn all of Obamacare, throwing millions of people off their insurance and invalidating protections for pre-existing conditions, along with other provisions that protect patients.
The unofficial Republican Party policy, though, is to lie about this fact. Trump is constantly telling voters that he protected pre-existing conditions — even though he has done nothing to ensure they’re covered — and that he’ll continue to keep these protections in place, even though he’s trying to destroy them.
The Tillis staffer, apparently, didn’t get the message. He has imbibed the attitude at the heart of the GOP’s policy preferences. His mistake was being honest with a member of the public about the policy.
Veals, for one, doesn’t seem deceived by the office’s apology. And that’s because she still hasn’t gotten the original answer to the question she called about.
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