A Dubuque woman’s 107-word letter to the editor published in Friday’s Telegraph Herald has gone viral, garnering tens of thousands of views, shares and comments on Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other websites across the country.
A photo of the letter had even topped 1.5 million views on the popular online site imgur.com as of 6 p.m. Monday.
Barbara Rank, 63, penned her letter in response to U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, who said in a Dubuque town hall last week that he supports repealing “crazy” mandates contained in the federal Affordable Care Act that require the inclusion of “essential health benefits” in health insurance plans.
“Such as a 62-year-old male having to have pregnancy insurance,” Blum said, referring to maternity care.
Rank was among the attendees at the town hall, and she said Monday that she was “appalled.”
“That he would think that we only pay for the things that matter to us,” she said. “It’s not the first time that I’ve heard that argument, but the fact that he would just say it in front of 1,000 people got me boiling.”
In her letter, she said people pay for things they do not directly use in the name of “democracy, a civil society (and) the greater good.”
“I ask, why should I pay for a bridge I don’t cross, a sidewalk I don’t walk on, a library book I don’t read?” Rank wrote. “Why should I pay the salaries of politicians I didn’t vote for, a tax cut that doesn’t affect me or a loophole I can’t take advantage of?”
A spokesman for Blum said the comment from the Republican from Dubuque “was taken out of context.”
“He was referring to the idea of patients being able to choose health insurance policies that fit their needs, rather than one-size-fits-all policies filled with government mandates,” John Ferland wrote in an email to the Telegraph Herald. “Obviously, he understands that taxes pay for things that not everybody uses.”
Rank is a retired special education teacher whose family is from Dubuque. She said she has written letters to the editor in other newspapers. She also leaves comments on articles she reads in the online edition of the New York Times.
But the continuing reach of her letter to the Telegraph Herald far surpasses those.
National news outlets called Rank for interviews, the views of the photo on imgur.com continues to climb, and a related post on Reddit experienced a surge in readership that pushed it to that popular site’s front page for a time Sunday. The Facebook page Being Liberal posted Rank’s letter on Saturday, and that post has been shared more than 22,000 times as of tonight. The page Occupy Democrats did the same thing Sunday, and that post has garnered more than 16,000 shares.
Rank does not use social media, but she said friends and family are keeping her abreast of the growing public reception to her letter. Several national news outlets also reached out to interview Rank in the wake of the letter being published.
State Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Dubuque, who is challenging Blum for his seat in the 2018 election, was among those who praised Rank online.
“When I talk about the need for us to have the tough conversations telling the hard truths with friends and family regardless of political party-this is what I mean!” Finkenauer wrote on both her personal and campaign Facebook pages.
Blum is not the first politician to complain that men must pay for insurance plans that cover maternity services, which some argue increases premium costs.
The Republican health care replacement bill, known as the American Health Care Act, would let states apply for waivers that could allow insurance companies to eliminate “essential” benefit coverage and potentially charge older people and those with pre-existing conditions higher premiums.
Blum voted in favor of the bill, saying in a statement that it “will stabilize the market, lower premiums for Iowans, increase choices, reduce taxes and protect people who have pre-existing conditions.”
Rank said that while she was dispirited by the sentiment behind Blum’s comment at the town hall meeting, she is encouraged that she isn’t the only one.
“What the heck, I just wrote this silly little letter and look what in the world has happened,” she said. “It struck a chord clearly.”