Sen. Chris Murphy announced he and other Senate Democrats sent a letter to 18 Republican governors urging them to expand Medicaid in their states under the Affordable Care Act.
At a press conference Wednesday, Murphy (D-Conn.) said the letter was sent to the governors who have not taken steps toward expansion. Although he does not expect a formal response from the governors, Murphy explained the note is just one component of a larger campaign.
“We are asking Republican governors to take a new look at Medicaid expansion,” Murphy said.” […] “It is one of the first times that Democrats from across the political spectrum are speaking with one voice on health care reform implementation.”
Murphy admitted he doubts the letter will persuade the staunch opponents of Medicaid expansion to his side. The hope is the letter, which was released to the public, will help change the narrative in those Republican states and cause constituents to contact their governors about expanding Medicaid, Murphy said.
Thus far, Medicaid had proven to be more popular than Obamacare, according to recent polls. The Democrats wrote in the letter that there is inequity in any states without the expansion.
“A political difference should not result in almost six million Americans falling into a coverage gap because their income is too high for Medicaid coverage, but below the level for a premium tax credit for coverage through a Marketplace plan,” the 20 Democrats wrote in the letter.
Under the Affordable Care Act, states were required to expand Medicaid. A Supreme Court decision, however, made this optional for states, resulting in an almost even split between states that expanded Medicaid and those that didn’t. Democrats control most of the 26 states that chose expansion.
Murphy spent most of the press conference highlighting the progress Democrats have made over the last few years to fix the broken health care system in the United States. The system has needed improvement for 100 years, but it wasn’t until recently that any work was done for it, Murphy said.
“The United States has one of the most backward systems of health care in the world,” Murphy said. “We leave 15 percent of the population without insurance yet spend twice as much as any country in the world.”
There have been a few setbacks along the way, most notably the HealthCare.gov crash in the fall, as well as a few successes, including the 8 million Obamacare enrollees, which surpassed the goal of 6 million, Murphy said.
Although it’s hard to anticipate what the future holds, Murphy hopes moving forward more people will continue to sign up for Obamacare. He also hopes the quality of health care improves in the country while costs slow down.
“I hope the current trend lines continue,” Murphy said. “You’re never going to insure 100 percent of the population. There’s going to be some people who simply choose to be without healthcare insurance in the marketplace we have today.”
One of the first things you’ll notice about Sen. Chris Murphy is his youthful appearance. He’s 40, making him the youngest voice in the United States Senate, where the average age is 62. Sure, Murphy (D-Conn.) has the same black suit, tightly-knotted necktie and commanding presence as most other senators in Washington, but he’s missing the weathered look of a man who spent his whole life trying to be elected into the nation’s top governing body.
His colleagues have been known to crack an innocent joke about his young age over the years. Former Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell once gave Murphy a razor for Christmas after he was elected to the United States House of Representatives and said, “This is for when you’re old enough to shave.” Once in Washington, he was forced to play catcher for the House baseball team “because he was the only politician who could squat down and be able to stand up again,” said Margaret Miner, executive director of the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut.
His thick head of hair and boyish looks don’t help his cause. Murphy’s appearance often raises questions among personnel within the Capitol. At a press conference Wednesday morning, Murphy said he is stopped by Capitol Police for identification on almost a daily basis
“I need to wear my [senator] pin because I still get mistaken as on good days: staff, on bad days: intern,” Murphy joked.
Murphy’s age was initially shocking to supporter William Luers, the former president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While Murphy ran for a seat in the U.S. House back in 2006, Luers and his wife, Wendy, met the future senator at a campaign fundraiser for the race in Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District. Watching Murphy walk into the room with his mother, father and future wife, Cathy, in tow was a moment Luers wouldn’t quickly forget.
“I leaned over to Wendy and whispered, ‘Oh my God, his father looks younger than our son,’ ” Luers, 85, of Washington, Connecticut said, chuckling to himself as he recounted the memory.
Yet all it took was that one night for Luers to be convinced Murphy deserved his vote, even though the then-32-year-old was young enough to be his grandson.
As Luers observed Murphy interact with others, he couldn’t help but be impressed by the legislator’s energy, charisma and attention for detail.
In the case of Murphy, it became clear to Luers that his young age was not the lawmaker’s weakness; it was his strength.
Murphy began his political run in the Connecticut House of Representatives at the age of 25. After eight years in state government, he was elected to the U.S. House. He spent six years as a congressman before running for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2012.
The speed in which he moved through political ranks drew criticism from opponents during election campaigns. Murphy acknowledged that his pace was due in part to personal ambition but also because he wanted to have more influence on issues.
“To the extent that I’ve moved fast in my career; it’s because I have wanted to increase my voice on behalf of the people I represent,” Murphy said, adding that he believes he has balanced his electoral duties with his legislative responsibilities.
Not many politicians are able to ascend as quickly as Murphy. This separates him from most of the other senators because he is at a different point in his life. As a father to two young boys, Murphy said his primary responsibility is to his family, not the Senate.
With his hectic schedule, Murphy said he has to set rules for himself to make sure he spends time at home. He tries to be home for breakfast and dinner and very rarely works both days of the weekend. This means saying no to some events, but Murphy said people usually understand when he explains his reasoning.
“The most important thing to me is being a good dad. Being a good senator is something that comes second,” Murphy said.
It’s only been 18 months since Murphy took office, yet Luers said the legislator has already distinguished himself as “one of the stars among the junior senators.”
“He’s very sensitive about being perceived as a star. He knows that’s not a good idea but frankly he does anyway,” Luers said. “He’s very quick to stand up for an issue early before he finds out how the wind is blowing.”
Through his position as chairman of the subcommittee on European Affairs, Murphy learned more about issues surrounding Iran, including the country’s nuclear program. Because Luers has been chairman of the Iran Project for the past 10 years, Murphy asked his longtime supporter to travel with him to Greenwich, Connecticut to meet with constituents about Iran’s nuclear program. That night, Luers watched the senator perform in a way he hadn’t seen before.
“I’ve been around this for 40 or 50 years, and I haven’t seen a senator with his smart, informed description of problems we are facing in Iran,” Luers said.
Even when Murphy received hostile questions from constituents with opposing viewpoints, the senator responded tactfully. He was never defensive, but he let you know where he stood on the issue, Luers said.
Many of Murphy’s supporters, including John Millington, former vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations, believe the future is bright for Murphy, although the senator said he is not thinking beyond his current position.
Millington, 87, of Washington, Connecticut, wouldn’t be surprised if one day Murphy became the leader of the free world. While some might scoff at Murphy’s young age, Millington said it gives him such an advantage in that he has time to continue learning and making connections.
“He’s got many qualities about him that are very Kennedy-esque,” Millington said. “Chris has all the potential in the world to become a future president of the United States.”
Dan Barry sat on a wooden bench near the entrance of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, enviously watching a group of children blithely stroll down the path toward the monument. He traveled more than 230 miles with his family to the District of Columbia to see the memorial, yet he chose to stay away rather than walk alongside the wall of names of those Americans who died during the war – more than 58,000 of them in all.
It wasn’t that Barry didn’t want to pay homage to the men and women who lost their lives serving their country. He just didn’t feel emotionally strong enough; he was afraid it might bring back memories from Vietnam that were too painful. One look through a book at the entrance of the memorial listing the names of those who died was enough for Barry.
“I took one peek at that book and said ‘I don’t need this,’ ” Barry, 63, of Crafton, Pennsylvania, said. “I think I’ve done rather well at not forgetting the war but suppressing it.”
Barry wore shorts, not because it was a sunny June day but because it was his only option. Before he had his two legs amputated, he was 6 feet tall. Now, he wears foreshortened prostheses and stands at 4-foot-6.
Still, he wore a smile on his face, his dark hair moving with the wind. He took a deep breath before beginning to tell his story. He warned that he doesn’t talk about the Vietnam War to anyone: not even his wife, children or friends who also served.
In 1969, Barry received his draft notice for the Vietnam War. He said it wasn’t unexpected, as many of his friends and neighbors were also selected. Right before he left for Vietnam in 1970, he was told he would be an infantryman for the United States Army.
He saw more violence and brutality than he could have ever imagined growing up in western Pennsylvania, some even coming from American officers. The cruel treatment shown to other human beings is not something Barry has forgotten.
Life in the military changed Barry. It changed him so much that he was afraid to see his fiancÃ©, Molly. While serving, he had one week off and planned to fly to Hawaii to spend time with her. He changed his destination to Sydney at the last minute so she couldn’t join him.
“The war changes you. I was terrified that I could not become the guy who left her,” Barry said. “I was afraid I couldn’t flip the switch and be the man she loved. I didn’t think I could be emotionally attached.”
Barry’s time in Vietnam ended sooner than expected when he stepped on a landmine that blew off his left leg in 1971. His right leg was severely damaged but usable until three years ago, when doctors cut off it off due to a prolonged infection. Barry was in the hospital for the 13 months following the accident. When he finally arrived home to the Pittsburgh area, he overcame his fear and married Molly. They’ve been together ever since.
Memories of Vietnam haunted Barry for years. At first, he turned to alcohol to cope. In the end, working for Disable American Veterans is what helped him the most because he was constantly around people with similar situations.
Yet he still doesn’t want to confront those memories from Vietnam. This was his second time trying to visit the war memorial, choosing again to avoid it because he “didn’t want to light the fire again.”
Barry’s response to the Washington monuments was vastly different from other veterans who happily visited the sites. Some came alone, some with family members and others with tour groups.
Those different reactions are part of the importance of the war memorials in that no two people see them the same way; observers have different experiences based on their personal memories. Regardless of their responses, it’s imperative that these monuments give veterans a chance to reflect, said Rocky Bleier, a Vietnam veteran and former professional football player who won four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1968 to 1980.
Bleier, 68, of Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, fundraised to finance the construction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He said the memorial is a constant reminder of those who gave their lives for their country; those sacrifices deserve to be remembered.
Often, Bleier thinks about how those who died didn’t get to enjoy their remaining years like he did. For Bleier, it was after the Vietnam War that he was at the peak of his game.
Bleier played one season for the Pittsburgh Steelers before he was drafted for the Vietnam War in December 1968. Three months after he was sent to Vietnam, Bleier was wounded in the left thigh by a rifle bullet when his platoon was ambushed. An enemy grenade then injured his lower right leg.
For the next 10 months, Bleier recovered in hospitals throughout the world. He weighed only 180 pounds and had nerve damage in his right leg, yet Bleier still returned for football training camp in 1972. He spent two years building up his strength before regaining a spot on the active roster.
“Were there tough times? Yeah. Were there a lot of questions? Yeah. But I really wanted to play,” Bleier said. “An injury wouldn’t stop me.”
About once per year, Bleier returns to Washington to visit the memorials. Part of the reason why Bleier was steadfast that there should be a monument dedicated to the Vietnam War is to make sure history isn’t forgotten. Too often people are so concerned about their day-to-day lives that the past is overlooked.
Bleier said eventually, no one will be alive who lived through the Vietnam War. Future generations need to remember what happened.
“The memorials are a reflection of a period of time,” Bleier said. “Whether you agreed or disagreed with the war is irrelevant. Those people gave their lives and should be remembered.”