Health Care: Seriously, GOP?
Recently, a battle raged in the US House Of Representatives on a bill designed to begin the process of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (known to its detractors as Obamacare). Republicans had been campaigning for this from the moment it was passed in the House and Senate and signed into law by President Obama. President Trump had likewise made this a priority in the campaign leading up to his victory in last November’s election.
While President Trump had backed the House bill, its provisions did not exactly meet the standards he had set forth in his campaign rhetoric. Trump was following GOP orthodoxy in saying that Obamacare was going to implode or explode soon, leaving the country bankrupt while failing to provide the health care the American people need and desire. He claimed it would be simple to eliminate the defective law and replace it with one which would save our health care system and provide everyone with adequate coverage without causing the economy to tank.
The problem with the bill offered in the House was that it did none of these things. Analysis by the Congressional Budget Office said the bill would result in over twenty million people losing coverage in the next decade. Tax cuts to the wealthy and elimination of the individual mandate (which requires each individual to either have insurance coverage or pay a substantial tax penalty) would mean that the system established by the Affordable Care Act would no longer work unless insurance companies were allowed to raise rates for high risk groups or increase deductible levels and out-of-pocket expenditures which would mean coverage would drop to levels which were once again unacceptably high, especially for high-risk groups such as elderly people not yet eligible for Medicare.
In all honesty, the bill seemed more the brainchild of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has been angling to reduce costs of Medicaid and Medicare ever since his days as House Budget Committee Chair prior to being the VP nominee on the 2012 GOP ticket under Mitt Romney. The way in which it attacked the Medicaid expansion piece of the Affordable Care Act and slashed the subsidies provided to make insurance more affordable for low-income individuals was in keeping with the principles espoused in his various policy proposals in previous budget cycles. In effect, the plan was becoming a huge tax windfall for the wealthy at the expense of insurance affordability for millions of others.
Other aspects of the new plan would serve to make it less likely for people to seek preventive care, resulting in higher levels of emergency room care, as people would be forced to wait until they were in serious difficulty before seeking care to avoid personal bankruptcy. The American Health Care Act would have benefitted very few relatively wealthy people, their families and corporations which would also see their taxes drop as a result. Health Insurance and Pharmaceutical companies (particularly their executives and shareholders) would also make out nicely under the plan.
Health care is a human right, not a privilege to be meted out in some arbitrary fashion based on economic prosperity, wealth or other discriminatory factor. This is obviously not a universally held opinion. If it were, there is no way in hell anyone would have come up with a system as tilted towards the satisfaction of a need for greed and lack of compassion on the part of a privileged minority as the one that would result from this particular law.
Many on the political left saw numerous shortcomings in the Affordable Care Act. The way in which it catered to both the private Health Insurance and Pharmaceutical industries meant expenses were bound to remain excessive when compared to other nations for comparable care. Making Medicaid expansion so pivotal while leaving it up to the political vagaries of each state ensured that people living in some states would receive better treatment than those living in others.
The GOP has a majority of seats in each house of Congress. Many of those who stand to lose the most by passage of a bill like the American Health Care Act are among those who put the politicians in office who are pushing for it the hardest. The sad truth is, millions of Trump voters also put in office some of the people pushing harder to make the bill even more draconian. The House Freedom Caucus was set to vote against the bill because it didn’t go far enough in reversing the Affordable Care Act. Luckily, it was these representatives who forced Trump and Ryan to scrap the bill – for now.
I am fairly certain that there are more people in this country who favor fixing the problems in the Affordable Care Act by moving in the other direction using a single-payer, Medicare For All approach providing affordable, universal coverage for all regardless of the extraneous arbitrary financial considerations espoused by the GOP and the for-profit privatized model which so many other advanced industrialized nations have abandoned. The health of the people as a whole would definitely be better off moving in that direction, rather than taking care away from millions as would happen under the Trump/Ryan or Freedom Caucus visions.
This battle is far from over. The GOP stands ready to continue its fight against human and civil rights for vast segments of our population in the days to come. Voting rights, reproductive rights and all other rights for people which have been fought and died for by many for ages will stand at risk as long as the right wingers maintain and strengthen their hold on political power at the state, local and federal levels in this country as well as abroad. Remember, as our rights become more restricted and our liberties whittled away in the name of some oddly-framed sense of morality or “national security”, who is doing these things and what they are actually achieving.
Freedom to die sick and miserable decades too soon because a health care system insists on healing only those who can afford to further enrich artificially created and sustained elites is not a freedom many would envy. It’s time for our health care system to move forward into an age where all are treated as equals when it comes to health, education and every other endeavor which our society holds to be important determinants of the future course of our society. We need to stop those currently striving to prevent us from achieving these goals for their own profit, whether it be monetary or other, at each and every opportunity.
Suggested Further Readings: