The grieving father stood with his guitar and his cowboy hat in the cold, crowded lines for hours, driving to towns big and small in nearly every corner of the country.
Beginning in January 2016, Kraig Moss traveled to 45 rallies, belting out songs in support of Donald Trump and telling the story of his late son, Rob, who died three years ago from a heroin overdose. In this way, the musician earned the title of “the Trump Troubadour,” a true believer said to symbolize “the voice of unheard America.”
He stopped making his mortgage payments and sold the equipment for his construction business to stay on the campaign trail, galvanized by Trump’s promise to help young people — like Moss’s late son — who struggle with drug addiction. Trump, Moss thought, was the candidate most capable of bringing an end to the heroin epidemic sweeping the nation.
Trump made this promise to Moss personally at a rally in Iowa in January 2016. Speaking through a microphone to the crowd, he addressed Moss directly: “The biggest thing we can do in honor of your son … we have to be able to stop it.”
“I know what you went through. And he’s a great father,” he said of Moss to the crowd. “I can see it. And your son is proud of you.”
But about two weeks ago, Moss caught his first glimpse of the Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act. The proposed health care bill, slated for floor vote in the House Thursday night, would eliminate a requirement that Medicaid cover basic mental-health and addiction services in states that expanded it, a mandate that covered nearly 1.3 million people.
“This bill is just the absolute opposite,” Moss told The Washington Post. “I felt betrayed. I felt let down.”
He had put all his weight behind the Republican’s promise, sacrificing his business and his livelihood to sing Trump’s praises. But this bill backed by the president “disgusted” him. He no longer sings songs about Trump, and he now wonders if any of his sacrifices were worth it.
“You hear that echo?” he said in a phone interview from his home in Upstate New York. “That’s because there’s no furniture in this house. It’s completely gutted.”
“The one platform that I was just so genuinely involved in with my heart was the one thing that he just turned right around,” Moss said. “He’s turning his back on all of us.”
He had hoped to see provisions in the bill calling for boosted resources for addiction treatment centers, lower deductibles and lower overall health care costs. If Trump wanted to, Moss said, he could “wave his pen” and provide funding necessary to supply emergency responders in every small town in America with naloxone kits to reverse possible heroin overdoses.
“Every one of those doses of Narcan represents a saved life,” Moss said. “If the emergency squad that came down to save my son had that dose, my son would’ve been alive today.”
That day was Jan 6, 2014. Moss, a single father, came home from work and called out Rob’s name, like he always did. “I didn’t hear anything,” he recalled.
In the basement bedroom downstairs, Moss found his 24-year-old son lying unconscious in bed with his arms resting across his chest. Next to him was the book he had just been reading, “The Wise Man’s Fear.” Later, Moss would find the needle.
He called 911 and tried to revive his son through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. An emergency response team arrived and was unable to bring him back. An autopsy later confirmed the cause of death: an overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller up to 100 times stronger than morphine.
Trump had told the father, “I know what you went through.”
“We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth,” he said in his speech before Congress on Feb. 28, “and we will expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted.”
Now, Moss said he wishes he could ask the president, “Have you even read the bill?”
The health care proposal would roll back the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act — commonly known as Obamacare — which would affect many states bearing the brunt of the opiate crisis, including Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. The Republican overhaul is spearheaded by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) and backed by Trump.
Republicans argue that the change would give states additional flexibility in coverage decisions, and believe they would continue to provide addiction and mental-health coverage to Medicaid recipients if needed. But advocates say the overhaul could be crushing for addiction treatment services, particularly for the poorest, most vulnerable patients. A record number of people — 33,000 — died of opiate overdoses in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Pay close attention to what you tell people you’re going to do and make some kind of effort to follow through,” Moss said. “Pay more attention to the needs of the people.”
Moss said he initially supported many of Trump’s other promises as well, such as his pledge to build a border wall with Mexico. But lately he has been upset hearing the stories of families being separated by deportations.
“If I contributed to anything like that I’d be ashamed of myself,” he said.
Many have been criticizing Moss for publicly voicing his disappointment with Trump, but he knows there must be many others feeling similar pangs of regret or betrayal.
“I was very instrumental in getting these ‘closet Trumpsters’ to come out” during the presidential campaign, Moss said. In a similar way, he hopes he can encourage other disillusioned Americans to speak up about their concerns with the new administration. “I’m not the lone ranger out here doing this,” he said.
“It’s a little guy like me that put Trump in the office,” and it’s the “little guys” who can call lawmakers and ask for a new health care proposal, he said.
“Don’t turn your head on this problem Mr. Trump,” Moss said.
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