Congressman Who Voted Against Protections for People With Pre-Existing Conditions Will Father Child With Pre-Existing Conditions

Wisconsin Republican Sean Duffy is resigning his seat in Congress due to a legitimate family emergency: the child he is expecting with his wife has been discovered to have a number of complications, including heart problems.

Duffy, who was elected in 2010 during a GOP wave, said he and his wife are expecting a child in late October who will “will need even more love, time, and attention due to complications, including a heart condition.”

“With much prayer, I have decided that this is the right time for me to take a break from public service in order to be the support my wife, baby and family need right now,” Duffy said in a statement posted to his Facebook page. “It is not an easy decision – because I truly love being your Congressman – but it is the right decision for my family, which is my first love and responsibility.”

Congenital heart defects are no joke. My first housemate in Philadelphia, and today one of my dearest friends, was born in the early 1960s with either pentalogy or tetralogy of Fallot (I forget which). Doctors had to fashion a diaphragm for him out of a sliver of his newborn thigh muscle, and he wasn’t expected to live past his early 20s (he’s in his 50s now, so hooray for modern medicine). He has spent his life in and out of the hospital. He’s a hilarious and creative person, but his humor is deeply underlaid by the trauma he’s endured since he was born. Of course he can’t work, so he’s on SSI, which keeps you pretty damned poor. It hasn’t been easy for him.

So I know what Duffy and his family could be looking at, if only secondhand. And of course medicine has come a long way since the 1960s (my friend is apparently the first or second “blue baby” born that survived).

As crass as it may be to point it out, Sean Duffy has spent his entire career in Congress voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Here he is in 2011, getting called out for “ignor[ing] the ‘replace’ part of his pledge on health care reform”.

He believes the Prevention and Public Health Fund component of the ACA (described at On the Issues as “a Fund to provide for expanded and sustained national investment in prevention and public health programs to improve health and help restrain the rate of growth in private and public sector health care costs”) is a slush fund, and voted to repeal it. Scientists and doctors disagree with that description.

Here he is in 2017 boasting about sending a bill to the Senate to repeal the ACA. Google gave me 280,000 results in less than a second for “Sean Duffy Affordable Care Act”, a minutely curated record of his votes and statements.

But perhaps the worst of all these votes—and the one he should absolutely be asked to explain—is his NO vote just this past May on HR 986: the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act of 2019, which would roll back one of the many assaults on the ACA lobbed by the Trump Administration, in this case a waiver which would make it easier to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions.

Life comes at you fast sometimes. One minute you’re out there banging the table about how the people with pre-existing conditions should be hung out to dry, the next you’re quitting your seat in Congress to prepare for a newborn with a lot of expensive health problems.

Has Duffy had a change of heart since learning his own child is going to be born with what sounds like a host of pre-existing conditions? Or does Duffy continue to believe, as his votes suggest, that health care is only for those who can afford it? I wonder if he reflects on his previous votes. Does he have any regrets?

Someone should ask him.

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