Illinois Senator Mark Kirk suffered a stroke about a year ago. He is only 53 years old, was an active member of the Navy Reserves and worked out regularly, so it was, to say the least, a surprise. After a year-long rehabilitation program, he returned to the Senate yesterday, triumphantly climbing the Capitol steps under his own power.
In a recent interview, Senator Kirk said that, having experienced what it takes to recover from such a debilitating illness, he is going to focus more on Medicaid for Illinois residents who are poor and need the program to obtain minimal healthcare. Senator Kirk stated that he now understands that a Medicaid patient in his condition would be limited to 11 rehabilitation/therapy sessions. If he had been so limited, he says, he never would have been able to recover as he has.
I am glad Senator Kirk will now be sensitive to the needs of Medicaid recipients. It is pitiful, however, and says everything about the man, that he could not reach this conclusion without suffering himself. In other words, absent personally experiencing a major healthcare problem, he had no empathy for people suffering every day, but lacking the resources that a well-heeled senator with Cadillac government insurance has with which to attack his problems. It is reminiscent of former Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, who railed against plaintiffs’ lawyers until his house blew down during Hurricane Katrina. Lo and behold, Senator Lott became a plaintiff in a class action against insurers for failing to cover the hurricane damage to his home.
The Republican state of mind is fairly simple: it is “every man for himself” unless that man is me and I need help. It is a selfish and, in my opinion, uncivilized point of view, and it represents the worst that a public servant could possibly offer.
By the way, Senator Kirk also stated in the interview that he would have voted “no” on the legislation avoiding the fiscal cliff. So from his experience with the stroke and the recognition that people need government assistance, the only take away for Mr. Kirk had to do with Medicaid. He learned nothing else. What a disappointment.