Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why is Rep. Mike Ross (AR-4) Blocking Health Care Reform?

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By Sarah Shive

Rep. Mike Ross, a Blue Dog Democrat and obstructionist hailing from the 4th District of Arkansas, is leading a coalition of Blue Dogs to attempt to derail the House health care bill by keeping it from leaving the House Energy & Commerce Committee. So far, committee chairman Rep. Henry Waxman has had to cancel mark-up of the health care bill for two days straight because of Rep. Ross’s obstructionism. According to Rep. Ross, he doesn’t want to kill the health care bill, he’s just concerned about costs.

The reality is that the health care industry was the single largest contributor to his campaign in 2008, with individuals and PACs collectively throwing in $261,000. Ross, a former pharmacist, also received over $100,000 in dividends last year from the pharmacy he used to own.

Rep. Ross says he’s on his constituents’ side, but as he holds up health care reform, his constituents are some of the hardest hit. Almost 22 percent of his constituents have no health insurance. Twenty percent live in poverty. Almost 30 percent are people of color, who experience significant disparities when it comes to health and access to health care. His economically depressed hometown of Prescott, Ark., which he now represents, is suffering immensely, as many residents are unable to afford health insurance and a floundering economy makes it even more difficult for employers to provide health insurance for their employees. The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that Arkansas residents have seen their health insurance premiums balloon 66% between 2000 and 2007.

The districts of Rep. Ross and his Blue Dog cohorts have been among the hardest hit by the health care crisis. It’s time for them to get down to business making the changes we need, not holding legislation hostage so they can “negotiate.”

Thank you to the Institute for Southern Studies for compiling the research.

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