Lynn Jenkins is really making a name for herself this past week.
No, I'm not talking about her "great white hope" comments. I'm talking about her incredibly cold response to a 27-year-old single mother without health insurance. This polite woman, a full time waitress, falls just within the health insurance crack. Despite having a young son, she can't afford health insurance and doesn't qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP. As the AP wrote:
"One was Elizabeth Smith, a 27-year-old Ottawa waitress who wanted to know what was wrong with a government-run plan for Americans who are currently uninsured. Smith's 2 1/2-year-old son, Jonah, sat on a nearby table, swinging his legs...
... Smith's son hasn't been to a doctor in 21 months, except for emergency room visits for ear infections, because she can't afford either insurance or a doctor's visit."
Jenkins' response? A hardy laugh and the words "go be a grown up."
This compassionless, bureaucratic exchange between Smith and Lynn Jenkins' was luckily caught on tape. The footage is incredible in its detachment from the dire situation that is our health insurance crisis.
Here's the video:
Here's the transcript:
Elizabeth Smith: I'm a 27 year-old single mother. I work full-time. I do not have health insurance. My employer does not provide health insurance to me and I cannot afford it privately. Why shouldn't my government guarantee all of its citizens health care?
Jenkins: Thank you. I'm sorry, maybe you missed my opening remarks, but absolutely. That's why we have Medicaid in the current system and that's why under the alternative proposal we have an option for low-to-modest-income people to be able to afford health care and then we've got the SCHIP program for children. I think we've got all of the bases covered.
Audience member: She's not covered under SCHIP!
Jenkins: OK, if you're not then you're the perfect example for why we need reform and why we need it now but we have to do it right and if we can do an alternative proposal, as I'm suggesting, give you the money to go buy it in a reformed marketplace where it is affordable, that's my preference rather than to saddle the nation with yet another government program when they can't afford the government run programs we have.
Elizabeth Smith: I want an option that I can pay for. I work. I pay my bills. I'm not a burden on the state. I pay my taxes. So why can't I get an affordable option. Why are you against that?
Jenkins: A government-run program (laugh) is going to subsidize not only yours (laugh) but everybody in this room. So I'm not sure what we're talking about here.
Jenkins: I think it comes down to the whole discussion of...
(The crowd erupts. At this point, it's safe to say even they aren't buying Jenkins position...)
Lynn: OK folks. Let's be respectful. UH-OH (talking over crowd). We're gonna make time for everybody. We're gonna all listen to each other respectfully, even if we disagree. I think we can agree we need reforms, again it's just how we gonna do it. I believe people should be given the opportunity to take care of themselves with an advanceable tax credit to go be a grown-up and go buy the insurance.
It's a shame that during this important debate Lynn Jenkins is so indifferent to the plight of those who need the most help. In fact, yesterday we also learned that Jenkins' hasn't even read the health reform bills being debated in Congress. The people of the Kansas Second Congressional deserve better.
To be honest, Kansas deserves better.