GOP Senator Apologizes After Staffer Told Cancer Survivor She's On Her Own If She Can't Afford Healthcare
Republican Senator Thom Tillis has issued a public apology to a constituent after a member of his staff responded to her pleas for help with access to healthcare treatment by saying "figure [it] out."
The constituent, Bev Veals, a three-time cancer survivor, asked Tillis for help when her and her husband's healthcare coverage became threatened when her husband was furloughed due to the pandemic.
Tillis told local news station WRAL that the staffer was reprimanded.
Veals suffered medical bankruptcy and has lost healthcare coverage due to her cancer battles in the past.
Veals says she reached out to Tillis because she was terrified of losing healthcare coverage during a pandemic and wanted assurance that she would have access to care if the worst-case scenario occurred.
She ended up speaking with a Washington staffer of Tillis', whose lack of willingness to assist her led her to begin recording their phone calls.
In the recording, Veals is heard asking the staffer to clarify that if a person cannot afford healthcare, they are not entitled to access ot it.
The staffer responds:
"Yeah, just like if I want to go to the store and buy a new dress shirt. If I can't afford that dress shirt, I don't get to get it."
When Veals insists healthcare is something every person needs, especially when they have cancer, the staffer doubles down.
"Well, you got to find a way to get it."
Unable to hide the shock and anger in her voice, Veals asks the staffer:
"So what do I do in the meantime, sir?"
To which the staffer responds:
"Sounds like something you're going to have to figure it out."
WRAL sent Veals's recording to Tillis' office, but Tillis declined to give an interview.
Instead, a spokesperson, Daniel Keylin, submitted a statement with an apology.
"The way Mrs. Veals was talked to by a staff assistant in our Washington office was completely inappropriate and violates the code of conduct Senator Tillis has for his staff, which is why immediate disciplinary action has been taken."
But Veals is not satisfied with a mere statement.
She wants, in essence, for her elected officials to do what they were sent to Washington to do—help their constituents.
As she told WRAL:
"We need our legislators to listen to us and help us solve this problem because it's not just my problem--not being able to afford health care. It's the problem of hundreds and thousands of North Carolinians."
On Twitter, people were outraged.
Too little, too late. Your man totally disrespected and demeaned that woman https://t.co/EOIIiMOov5
— Eugene Westbrook (@genewest) September 9, 2020
Republicans are heartless & cruel. https://t.co/GoiiZq1JIW
— Bonnie 💙💛💙💛 Engelstein (@mercurygirl7) September 9, 2020
‼️A #cancer survivor worried about losing health insurance called @SenThomTillis' office: “You're saying that if you can't afford it you don't get to have it?"
Staffer: "Yeah...if I can't afford that dress shirt, I don't get to get it."🤬
VOTE HIM OUT.https://t.co/c2aFsyiGbU
— Dr. Dena Grayson (@DrDenaGrayson) September 9, 2020
Many pointed out that staffer's response was 100% on-brand for the GOP when it comes to healthcare.
If you didn't realize this was the Republican stance you've been living under a rock.
GOP senator apologizes after staffer is caught on tape saying what Republicans actually believe on health care - https://t.co/Zg8N4Xd6ie
— ⚓️ Navy Vet Mike - Truth Matters!! (@NavyVetResister) September 9, 2020
(THIS IS NO SECRET GOP WOULD RATHER YOU DIE THAN TO HELP PEOPLE IN NEED. ITS ONLY PEOPLE WITH THEIR HEAD IN THE SAND THAT DO GET IT)GOP senator apologizes after staffer is caught on tape saying what Republicans actually believe on health care #Smartnews https://t.co/9e6RyuZ0Lc
— Larry Williams (@lawfour2005) September 9, 2020
Can we all be perfectly clear on this?...Republicans have NO intention of expanding access to healthcare for ALL Americans.
We waited 10 years for their alternative to Obamacare.
— J. Lang Wood (@JLangWood) September 9, 2020
This isn't a story about a rude person in @ThomTillis's office, this is a staffer accurately describing the Republican approach to health care. Get sick? Tough luck. Vote Tillis out by supporting @CalforNC: https://t.co/oOxvDradAJ
— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) September 8, 2020
And virtually no one was buying the apology.
Like senator. Like staffer. It's a fake apology.
— David Hosack (@DavidHosackNYC) September 9, 2020
Right, the staffer who said this had never heard of before sitting around chatting with Mr Tillis. He's apologizing because he's got caught
— Mike (@mtc6951) September 9, 2020
Repubs are making excuses, saying he's a low level staffer. But this is coming from the top. Repubs had TEN years to "Repeal N Replace" ACA. Now, They are in the courts trying to remove coverage for "preexisting conditions".
— BIDEN/HARRIS2020 (@soccermom1517) September 9, 2020
Many others felt the scandal was reflective of why Tillis is presently badly losing his reelection bid.
Reminder: @SenThomTillis is on the list of stinking enablers we're determined to flush in Nov.
I hope his constituents read this & consider his (unstated) position that only the rich deserve to feel secure.
— Lea Williams VO (@LeaWmsVO) September 9, 2020
Veals said she and her husband are using up their savings to pay for health insurance while they wait and hope for her husband to be sent back to work.
Tillis' is considered one of the most vulnerable Republican Senate seats in the November election.