Five youth organizers from Michigan United held an online meeting with Rep. Roger Hauck (R-99 Mt. Pleasant) Thursday to urge him to support a package of bills to establish a Pandemic Outbreak Fund and other measures to ensure patients are protected from facing the costs associated with COVID 19. It was one of three legislative meetings scheduled last week to get Representatives in Lansing to act on healthcare. Each year, Michigan United holds a statewide, lobbying event and day of direct action in Lansing called Capitol Day. This year, to keep members and representatives safe during the pandemic, events were scheduled virtually over 5 days and members renamed it Capitol Week: 20/20 People’s Vision.
House Bills 5630-5633 were introduced by Reps. Abdullah Hammoud (D-15, Dearborn), Darrin Camilleri (D-23, Brownstown), and Mari Manoogian (D-41, Birmingham). Constituents of Rep. Andrea Schroeder (R-43, Waterford) and Rep. Hank Vaupel (R-47, Howell) together with other members of Michigan United lobbied for action on these bills, which Vaupel declined to take Tuesday as chair of the committee on Health Policy.
Originally, the team intended to lobby Hauck to co-sponsor this package of bills and a House Resolution. “Our expectations changed after Tuesday,” said Katie Pulaski, one of Rep. Hauck’s constituents and the meeting chair. “We asked him to make a public statement and be transparent on where he stands. We haven’t heard from his office since.”
Emily Jones, another constituent, spoke on how the issue affected her at the meeting. “My sister is at high risk for COVID-19 with severe asthma, my mother is an essential worker, and none of us are insured,” Jones told Rep. Hauck, explaining that her family has avoided needed care because of excessive costs.
Most private insurers have already publicly agreed to waive these expenses for COVID-19 patients. “House Bill 5633 just holds them accountable for their promises and makes sure we’re protected so long as people are seeking care. How hard is it to take a stance on that?” said Kate Grove, a Michigan United member who helped lead the team to research the issue. During the meeting, Grove brought this point to Hauck’s attention but the representative failed to give a direct response.
Rep. Hauck agreed to consult with Rep. Vaupel to learn more about his stance on the bills and offered to respond in the future but the team pushed back. “(Rep. Vaupel) already showed us where he stands.” said Julian Rivers, leading negotiations with rep. Hauck.
Erin Day, who joined the team Thursday, agreed, adding that Rep. Hauck’s position seemed no different: “We spent weeks preparing and requesting to schedule a time for him to listen to us and he called into our meeting while driving. We asked him to be a leader and he lectured us on compromise. We’re in a crisis and he wouldn’t even look us in the eye. He should be ashamed.”
The team of organizers is fighting to make sure these bills don’t die in committee. “Young people like us are taking a seat at the table all across the country,” said Jones. “After we secure the Pandemic Outbreak Fund, we’ll go on to fight for Medicare for All and other transformative policy change that will ensure the right to health and dignity for families like mine.”