John Cornyn Calls Medicaid, Health Reform a “Gulag”

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Senator John Cornyn seems confused. On Fox News this weekend, he said that giving millions of Americans access to quality, affordable care was totally the same thing as being sentenced to a Soviet prison labor camp.

Yes. You read that correctly.

John Cornyn stated that the Democrats' plan to give all Americans access to health care is the same thing as being sentenced to a Soviet prison labor camp.

Here's the quote (emphasis mine):

It will limit people's choices to, in many cases, to a government-run program like Medicaid which is essentially a health care gulag, because people will not have any choices but to take that poorly performing government plan.

Don't believe it? Our friends at Talking Points Memo have the video:

Senator Cornyn seems confused. Perhaps many great works of Russian literature have fallen on his head. Allow me to set the record straight.

Medicaid is NOT the Same Thing as a Prison Labor Camp.

  • Medicaid is a program that provides low-income and disabled Americans with access to health care.
  • The Gulag was a system of penal camps, where folks were sentenced without trial for offenses such as unexcused absences from work, petty theft, or anti-government jokes.
  • Medicaid helps approximately 40 million low-income Americans receive access to medical care.
  • The Gulag imprisoned over 14 million people in 24 years, with another 6 million receiving deportation and exile from Russia.
  • 60% of nursing home residents and 37% of all live births in the United States are paid for in part or full by Medicaid.
  • 25% of the Gulag's population in the winter of 1941 alone died of starvation.

Receiving Access to Health Care is NOT the Same Thing as Going To Prison Labor Camp.

  • 46 million Americans currently lack insurance coverage.
  • Imprisonment in the Gulag resulted in meager food rations, inadequate clothing, and (get this!) lack of health care.
  • Mortality amongst uninsured Americans is up to 2 times higher than it is amongst Americans with private or public insurance.
  • Mortality in Gulag camps was 4-6 times higher than the average in Russia.
  • Approximately 45,000 Americans die each year from lack of basic health insurance coverage and access to care.
  • According to Soviet records, 1,053,829 people died in the labor camps between 1934 and 1953.

So if we really want to make analogies between oppressive political systems and health care, let's make sure that we're pointing our metaphors in the right direction. Now, the experience of an average uninsured American is not the same as the experience of a person sentenced to harsh labor in Siberia. But if John Cornyn does want to make fancy historical references, I'd suggest he compare Stalinist Russia to the health insurance corporations that deny people health care for having acne.

Has the Republican opposition to health reform really fallen to this point? Where it becomes acceptable discourse to equate going to the doctor with going to a prison camp? I don't have much faith in our junior Senator, but even for John Cornyn this is really terrible.

I mean really.  We have to explain to our Senator the difference between health care and penal labor camps?


About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Central Texas. She is also a fan of UCONN women's basketball and breakfast tacos.


  1. I do not suppose the
    host on Fox “News” took issue with Cornyn's appalling fear mongering tactics and his outrageous lies.

  2. The Palin factor…
    I think he has the hots for Sarah Palin and is hoping if he sounds “backwoods” enough she will spread her legs.

    He and Hutchison are examples of what happens when the lapdogs no longer have laps to sit in. They go insane.  

  3. Medicaid
    I am very definitely middle class.  My son has a rare genetic illness.  When he was about 7, we tried to get insurance for him.  I had a job that didn't offer health insurance for employee families.  The insurance industry said that he was not insurable.  This was back in 1992.  Fortunately, all my employers after this one covered my kid.  My son turned 22 about a year ago and was no longer covered under our policy.  He was hospitalized this past winter.  In the hospital for almost two months.  It was a big bill.  It could have cleaned out our retirement fund. Or we could have lost our home, but for one thing.  My son is on Medicaid.  Thank God for Medicaid!


  4. Why are you surprised?
    El Cornholio wouldn't know the difference between a gulag and Gov. Bubbabighair.  Could all the repugnicans just pack and move to the Caribbean, where their money is?  

  5. Throwing pure BS all over the place
    In one sentence Cornyn said Senate Democrats are trying to kill off health insurance companies.  In the next, the dazed and confused junior Senator from the great state of Texas declared that Senate Democrats would turn over $450 billion to subsidize private insurance companies.

    Which way is it Senator?  

    My question to big John.  Have you actually read the bill?

    I didn't think so.

  6. Really.

    We have to explain to our Senator the difference between health care reform and penal labor camps?

    I do believe you did an exquisite job of it.

    Since Senator Cornyn and all the Republican legislators receive such fine health care insurance from our federal government, one does have to wonder about him.

    If anything is a “gulag,” it appears to be the Republican Party. Maybe Senator Cornyn should take a look at his own personal gulag and work on getting out of it.

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