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Healthcare and the Politics of Destruction

Rally to protect Medicare/Medicaid, Bakersfield 1/27/17

The Republicans in Congress have campaigned against Obamacare (ACA- Affordable Care Act) with a ‘repeal and replace’ mantra for several years. Now that they have the absolute power of governance, they apparently do not know how to create a bill to reformulate a workable plan according to Politico:

Just as in the House, the representatives in the Senate do not seem to know whether they want to destroy the current legislation, underfund it so that it collapses or create a skeleton of a plan in order to save face. As an advocate for Obamacare, I know that it was not a perfect bill, but I saw the difference as hospitals could treat and get reimbursed for patients who now had Medicaid and parents were not trapped in a single insurance plan in order to avoid pre-existing exclusion expenses. If additional younger people had signed on, the plans would have been more affordable as they need to have a mix of patients. If the Supreme Court had not negated some of the Medicaid options – who knows? But with all good things – it needed time to get the market place established and allow it to mature. Certainly there were ways it could be reformed; however Congress would not permit improvements or give it this amount of time. Some portions of this latest version that seem most venal are: Benefits for seniors just shy of Medicare age would be priced so high as to be unaffordable for the majority of members in that age range. States would be allowed to permit plans to deny maternity benefits. Planned Parenthood, which provides inexpensive care for millions of women, would be denied participation. Cross state line insurance plans would be allowed – giving insurance companies the options to find the least restrictive states as to minimum benefits, so states such as Maryland which mandate stronger mental health and substance abuse benefits could be bypassed for in state plans.

The President, speaking recently, showed that he does not really care about healthcare when he said ‘repeal now replace later’ – he just wants to be able to show that he has something in the win column, despite his many promises while campaigning about saving insurance for everyone. Studies by the Kaiser Family Foundation and others have shown that the majority of those affected by these changes live in states where Trump won and that many do not believe they will lose coverage, despite information to the contrary. The millionaires on the Hill and in Trumps’ cabinet are in business for themselves as they pair unnecessary tax cuts with decreasing allowances for health care benefits. Whether it is 22 million, 25 or 30 millions (according to various Congressional Budget Office scenarios) who will possibly lose insurance or Medicaid is immaterial to these elected officials who are supposed to be performing for public benefit. Various polls have shown that fewer than 20% of the American public approve of these insurance plan options as tentatively presented by either governing body... Instead, all of these officials are intent on destroying healthcare for those who can least afford any changes in order to get government out of healthcare and to give millionaires more money to “stimulate the economy”.

Did you see the people in wheelchairs, with braces, feeding tubes and breathing supports forcibly removed form outside Senate leader Mitch McConnell’s office? These are the people who know that Medicaid is their lifeline and understand that block grants cannot meet the enormous medical assistance requirements which keep them alive. Did you hear the cancer survivors and their family members or parents of children with congenital conditions petitioning their congressional members to keep benefits such as coverage for pre-existing conditions, modest deductible and limitless lifetime expense allowances? Can these members be so deaf and blind to the real needs of real patients – and who are their constituents?

Dan Balz writing in the Washington Post stated: President Trump is more than his own worst enemy. The damage he has inflicted during his first five months in office has undermined Republican congressional leaders, frustrated members of his Cabinet, exasperated top advisers and strained relations with some of the nation’s most important allies. This week’s case study is health care.

The most significant domestic initiative of the Trump presidency and the Republican Party is the fulfillment of a promise to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. That Republicans are struggling to find an alternative to Obamacare is plain to see. But as congressional leaders scratch to find the votes to pass a bill in the Senate, the president has demonstrated that he is an unreliable partner in the battle.

Indivisible has been at the forefront of the healthcare battles in the House and now must continue to mobilize for the battle next week in the Senate. The President does not seem to understand the issues here – he had a party in the rose garden after the House passed a bill, now he claims it is mean. We know that the potential bill on the Senate side promises to be even meaner. Political pundits claim that no matter that there are not 50 votes to approve this matter at this moment, this does not mean that wheeling and dealing will not be taking place and that some form of this awful legislation will pass pro forma without allowed dissent or reasoned discussion. That said, we must stop this destruction of healthcare - as we now know it - if at all possible. The so called moderates are not being forceful enough; they are going through the motions. Lives should not be used as pawns in a political game. The conservatives who want nothing to pass – such as Senators Lee and Cruz – should be opposed at their next election, no matter when it occurs, due to their posturing and lack of honor on these matters.

Maryland is lucky to have two Senators who are stalwarts on the ACA – so perhaps we can best use our energies to call Senators described as wavering or get to friends and relatives in their states to petition them to allow public hearings and Democratic input into any potential changes. Those are; Lisa Murkowski – Alaska, Rob Portman – Ohio, Susan Collins,- Maine, Dan Heller- Nevada, Shelly Moore Capito, - West Virginia – and possibly Cory Gardner – Colorado and Rand Paul- Kentucky.

We cannot let our guard down as the politics of destruction are not being limited to healthcare; destruction is also being waged in the proposed budget, the environmental spheres, and education policy and immigration activities. Stay tuned.

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