Casting Mistake


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Sometimes people with the best intentions, can make some pretty big mistakes.


“Louisiana Voices for Change,” a group of children’s advocates, labor, faith and community-based organizations held a press conference this morning to unveil a new short film criticizing Sen. David Vitter’s voting record on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which provides health insurance to low-income families.


The short film tells viewers how there are thousands of families in Louisiana who don’t have health insurance, and then tells the story of Chris and Tiffany Starnes and Reily, their 17-month-old daughter. Reily was born a month premature, and had numerous medical problems (she’s a healthy little girl now), which necessitated a month-long stay in the neonatal intensive care unit and several surgeries. By the time Reily was six months old, her medical bills exceeded $1 million.


We then find out how Sen. Vitter, a father of four who has run on a platform of family values, has voted three times against the SCHIP program, which, according to film, “voted AGAINST Children’s Healthcare Program enhancement bill that would have helped families like the Starnes.”


Let’s recap: the Starnes are in the hole for $1 million in medical costs, and Vitter voted against a program that could have helped the Starnes, right?


Wrong. I’ll admit I’ve now watched this video many times — and I’ve had my editor view it as well — and we both come to the conclusion that the film implies the Starnes didn’t have medical insurance.


“We have medical insurance and we’re very fortunate for that,” says Chris Starnes.


Okay, so what about the million dollars? Tiffany Starnes says the total was actually more than $1.5 million in medical charges, but their health insurance paid it. The only thing the Starnes were responsible for was their deductible.


I wasn’t sure what to make of this, so I called Helene O’Brien, president of the local Service Employees International Union (SEIU). O’Brien is a member of “Louisiana Voices for Change,” and SEIU’s name is superimposed across the anti-Vitter film. O’Brien says she knew the Starnes had medical insurance, but added, “Well, they are on the hook for a million dollars.” That’s news to the Starnes.


The Gambit has come out in favor of SCHIP previously, and we will continue to support a program that provides health insurance for kids. And we’re certainly not against criticizing David Vitter  . But if you’re going to make a film about SCHIP and Vitter, find an uninsured family who has mounting medical bills because they can’t afford health insurance.


There are thousands of them in Louisiana.


Note: The Starnes are a great family. Tiffany was one of our “Forty Under Forty” honorees and Chris owns and operates Coffea Café in the Bywater.



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