U.S. House Members were reckless

By Vicky Byrd


As a 28-year Registered Nurse I can tell you that I have been intimately involved in the outcomes of people’s lives. Their physical, mental and spiritual health is a tremendous responsibility that deserves thoughtful attention, knowledge and expertise, and a genuine commitment to protect patients, nurture their healing, and advocate for them at all costs – and do no harm.

Recently, members of Congress passed the American Health Care Act (more commonly referred to as “Trumpcare”); 217 Republicans voted in favor of passage and 213 voted against, including 193 Democrats and 20 Republicans.

The Montana Nurses Association opposes the ACHA, as it would dismantle important health care benefits of the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, the ACHA was opposed by almost all the national healthcare groups, including the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the American Hospital Association.

The ACHA bill was not scored before the House voted on it. No thoughtful review of financial impact or health coverage impact had been completed. Montana just passed Medicaid expansion in 2015 covering over 70,000 Montana citizens. Now, to roll this back and compromise the lives of approximately 142,000 Montanans is reckless and unacceptable.

Lawmakers rushed to vote on this bill, even though they lacked the responsible level of knowledge on how it would impact the lives of millions. It was an uninformed decision.

When I ponder what would drive such inappropriate conduct, it occurs to me that unlike many healthcare professionals, these Congressmen have no idea what it’s like to beg the parent of a small child to continue treatment because without it, the child will die. They have no idea what it’s like to tell cancer patients they need more treatment, only to have them refuse because it will cost their family too much. These Congressmen never had to tell a patient that death was imminent because care wasn’t received early enough due to lack of access and affordability. They have no idea what it is like to cut pills in half to make them last longer, to skip medical tests to avoid unaffordable bills, or to lose their dignity and self-worth under the weight of mounting medical debt. 

Those hurried 217 Congressmen will never have to choose between buying food or insulin. They will never be driven to bankruptcy over medical debt. They have no idea what it is like for patients to choose death over life. This should never be a choice for Americans because of affordability or access to healthcare.

Nurses believe in using our knowledge and skills for good. We believe in being ethical, compassionate, dedicated and, most importantly, educated. We believe others, making decisions in this capacity, should be demonstrating those same ethics.

Montana had no representative in this U.S. House decision because our seat is currently vacant. On May 25 in a special election, we’ll elect our Congressman to speak for us on healthcare and other issues. Please do your research and make sure the candidate who receives your vote is deserving of your trust and will honor the lives and healthcare needs of our families and communities. Make sure it’s someone who will improve our healthcare system and not rush to tear it apart.

The week of May 6 was National Nurses Week, and what nurses want is the ability to provide quality care and promote health. Please thank a nurse, and help us elect and hold accountable a Montana Congressman who will be a champion for human life, wellness and access to affordable quality healthcare for all.


Vicky Byrd, RN, is the executive director of the Montana Nurses Association, the professional association and labor organization advocating for over 17,000 Registered Nurses in Montana.



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