Financial, health security is under threat in NH

On Jan. 21, the women’s march drew large crowds, not just all over the world, but in the North Country town of Lancaster, a town with 3,408 residents who, like the entire region, voted strongly for Donald Trump. 

All told, 400 people — 12 percent of the town’s population — showed up, waved signs and walked about a mile from the town’s welcome center to the local elementary school. The marchers passed by a half-dozen partisan Republicans waving Trump signs. Among them was Coos County Republican Chair Karl Ruch, who told a reporter with the Concord Monitor that the demonstrators were “divisive,” but went on to agree with them on one thing — the need for the new president and his fellow Republicans to go slow, especially on repealing the Affordable Care Act. “I think it’s a mistake if people were just dropped,” he said. “It would turn the conservative party inside out if people were kicked off the rolls.”

This caution is necessary at every level. State House Republicans are pushing through a radical template of punitive actions that make it harder for working families to overcome the challenges that they face. They are trying to make it harder for people to vote, harder for workers to organize and harder for people to earn a living and get ahead.

So far, they are silent on our bipartisan gains of the last four years — including extending our hugely successful NH Health Protection Program, which is providing quality health care coverage to more than 50,000 hard-working Granite Staters. 

Nowhere is the NH Health Protection Program or the ACA Act more critical or utilized than in the North Country, where people literally earn half as much as their southern New Hampshire counterparts.

Public assistance like the NHHPP has not only lifted many out of poverty, eased the pain of illness or accident and the burden of financial ruin, but it has also supported our small, rural hospitals and strengthened our local businesses.

That’s not all. It has made substance abuse treatment available in a place that has more overdose deaths per capita than anywhere else. It has also freed entrepreneurs to start their own small businesses because they now have access to affordable health care, rather than work for someone else just so they could have employer-provided health insurance. Remarkably, it has even allowed the Colebrook-based Indian Stream Health Center, a publicly funded community health center, to establish a living wage of $15 per hour for all of their employees.

Some low-wage earners saw their wages jump from $8 per hour.

It is a dark prospect to think of what will happen if these successful programs are shut down, especially to those families who need it most, some who voted for the politicians working to dismantle their financial and health security.

That is why, as Democrats, we must be unafraid to boldly speak up for the progressive values we know make positive impacts in people’s lives every day. We will be the voice for those who need effective government on their road toward achievement, independence, and success. 

In a rich, well-educated state like New Hampshire it is easy to overlook the people Andrew Jackson called the “humble members of society.” Rest assured I will not. It is they who have the most to lose in the years ahead, and sometimes it takes a Republican partisan to remind us. 

Jeff Woodburn of Whitefield is the NH Senate Democratic leader.

Categories: Opinion