“What? Are you kidding me?”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s disbelief at what the Senate labored mightily on before birthing an ugly toad in the form of a “health care reform” bill sums up what our collective reaction should be.
To read the bill’s particulars and the assessment by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is to be stunned at man’s inhumanity to man. The bill is not only, in Donald Trump’s now-famous word, “mean,” but it is wholly inexplicable. It makes no sense whatsoever as economic or national policy.
It would take health insurance away from 22 million people. It would give billions of dollars in tax cuts to the richest of the rich. It would put impossible burdens on already financially stressed state governments. It would make Americans, who already are near the bottom among the 16 wealthiest nations in healthiness, even sicker.
There is a reason why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pulled the Better Care Reconciliation Act from consideration before the July 4 holiday. Many Republicans are appalled at how bad a piece of legislation it is despite seven years of promising they would repeal and replace Obamacare.
Folks, it’s up to you to decide. Over the holiday recess, your senators will be at home. It is to be hoped they will not only be trolling for campaign dollars but will be accessible to you, the voters, to say whether you think they should pass this bill when they return to work.
Find out what is in this bill and let your senators know what you think about higher deductibles, less coverage for mental health care and maternity benefits, and more tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires financed by cuts in Medicaid. And don’t be fooled by promises that this bill will give states more flexibility (it won’t), lower your health care costs (it won’t), or make everyone more responsible for his or her own health (it won’t).
Yes, the bill ultimately would save tax dollars by phasing out coverage for insurance benefits now required by law. But it would come at the expense of millions of Americans’ financial stability. A family earning $55,000 a year could find itself paying $20,000 a year in insurance costs. That, of course, would mean it would go without insurance.
Because Congress refused to pass the fixes to Obamacare that were imperative and because the Trump administration is refusing to fund important aspects of it, we are facing serious problems in escalating health care costs and increasing confusion and national anger. If the Senate passes this dreadful bill, we will all be sorry.
Who thinks so? Governors. The American Hospital Association. AARP, the lobbying group for seniors that says the bill is an age tax. The American College of Physicians. The American Association of Medical Colleges. The American Academy of Pediatrics. The American Heart Association. (“The Senate draft health care bill is literally heartless.”) The American Lung Association. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. The American Medical Association.
A spokesman for AMA said, “There are not really many parts of this that we like. If we go down the list of things – does it improve coverage? No. Does it improve affordability? No. Does it stabilize the safety net? Medicaid? No.”
The bill would cut $772 billion from Medicaid over the next decade, at great harm to children and patients in nursing homes. What kind of society treats its most vulnerable that way?
One of the most telling statements came from McConnell, who warned Republicans that if they didn’t all get on board and pass this contemptible health care bill, they’d have to compromise with the Democrats. Horrors!
Tell Congress what you think, but only if you really know what you think. Don’t support this bill just because you like Trump or hate government or have no intention of ever buying health insurance. If Americans do their homework and learn what’s in this bill, it will be defeated. Congress will have to come up with a plan that is fair and affordable and that works as hard as Americans do for their money.
This Fourth of July, do your civic duty. Complain!
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.