Not just no, Joe, but heck no
Last week, with much fanfare and endorsements from just about every elected Republican in the state, Rep. Joe Heck of Nevada entered the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Harry Reid. His campaign even sported a clever hashtag for people to add to their congratulatory tweets trumpeting their support, #HeckYes. National political watchers changed their rating of the race from lean Democratic to pure toss up, heralding the millions of corporate dollars that will be poured into the race from both sides.
I don’t need to see all the commercials or mailers, as I’ve already made up my mind. I won’t vote for Heck.
I served with Heck, a physician, in the 2005 and 2007 legislative sessions, before he lost when running for reelection in 2008 in a blue wave year. As a state Senator, his nickname among many of his colleagues was Mr. Amendment, since he couldn’t resist making each and every bill that came before him better by changing it to suit himself.
To be fair, most doctors who serve in the Legislature exhibit a bit of this imperial “doctor knows best” attitude, but usually it’s confined to medical issues and tort reform. But Heck knew what was best on every conceivable subject.
Case in point—a bill I brought forth on behalf of his segment of the medical community, emergency room doctors. The measure, Assembly Bill 63, resolved an issue that had frustrated them to no end, repealing a 1950s law that allowed insurance companies to deny claims if a person was injured while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In order to avoid the possibility of insurance companies invoking this clause and refusing to pay medical bills, emergency room physicians would not routinely screen for alcohol intoxication or misuse of controlled substances. Since at least 50 percent of the trauma cases in Nevada hospitals involve people who are drinking or using drugs, the doctors missed many an opportunity to refer these patients to potentially life-saving substance abuse treatment.
Trauma room physicians, patient advocates and substance abuse professionals all supported the bill. But not Joe Heck.
His opposition was rooted in his belief that people need to be accountable for their actions. If they were drunk when they got hurt, Heck thought it was an appropriate punishment to have their insurer refuse to cover their claims. He held up the bill until the very last days of the session, finally releasing it with his amendment that featured specific blood levels so a society lady who broke her ankle after a glass of wine at dinner would have her medical bills paid for, but a guy who had a blood alcohol level of .08 was out of luck.
Heck was unmovable on his amendment despite calls from his work colleagues in the trauma center. He was immune to pleas from treatment professionals about lives that could be saved or the concept of addiction as a disease. You see, Heck always knows best.
Of course, there are lots of other reasons not to vote for Heck for Senate. He doesn’t support comprehensive immigration reform. He doesn’t support raising the minimum wage. As judgmental and mean-spirited as he is, you can probably guess that he doesn’t support marriage equality or Obamacare either, not to mention Social Security, which he once famously described as a “pyramid scheme.”
Heck has his marriage, he has health care, he has retirement resources. In his narrow worldview, if people were just responsible they wouldn’t be gay, need Obamacare or financial help in their golden years.
So put me in the #HeckNo column. Nevada doesn’t need a senator who thinks so highly of his own judgment he can’t conceive he could be wrong.