OMG! Sarah Palin was right! Meet the Senate Death Panel...

McConnel (R-KY)
Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Cotton (R-AR)
Cruz (R-TX)
Enzi (R-WY)
Gardner (R-CO)
Hatch (R-UT)
Lee (R-UT)
Portman (R-OH)
Thune (R-SD)
Toomey (R-PA)

AHCA: Senators Behind the Health Care Bill (Time) — and the money that motivates them!

| When the House passed its version of Trumpcare, known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA), Trump invited House members to the White House to celebrate, calling the bill "a great plan, I actually think it will get even better." A few weeks and another mood swing later, he called it "mean." Right the second time.

When the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) finally weighed in, the verdict was damning: the AHCA would result in 23 million more people uninsured by 2026 than if Obamacare were to remain in place. While the young and healthy might see lower premiums, the middle-aged and old would experience skyrocketing premiums and probably would be unable to afford insurance at all. The bill would also reduce the deficit over 10 years, but Republicans being Republicans, they planned to give that all away to rich people. The Senate made somewhat comforting noises about how the House bill just wouldn't do, and the Senate would write its own bill.

That was then. Mitch McConnell named a special committee of 12 other Senators, all Republican, all Male, all white,  to work on the Senate bill in absolute secrecy. We now know that even the 13 people on the committee were not all privy to what was being written, for Mitch had invited lobbyists in to formulate the bill. Finally, last Thursday, Mitch unveiled his bill. Ta-da! And everybody who had been saying that no matter what the Senate did it couldn't possibly be worse than the House bill immediately realized they had been wrong again. It could get worse, and it did.

The Senate has indeed brought to life Sarah Palin's death panel. If what these 13 guys have devised ever becomes law people will surely die as a result. And they don't seem to care. Republicans in general are obsessed with reducing taxes that the part of the Constitution (which they all profess to revere) about forming "a more perfect Union" and "promote the general Welfare" is totally ignored.

The biggest lie of all is that the bill is about healthcare. It's not. It's really about taxes, specifically cutting them for rich people and greasing the skids for an even bigger tax cut to follow under the guise of "tax reform." Tax reform, to Republicans, means rigging the system so even more wealth flows from the lower and middle classes to the upper, upper class. Never mind that the cockamamie voodoo economics idea that giving rich people more money will make the economy grow has been disproven over and over again. See for example GW Bush's tax cut that led to a devastating recession. See for example Brownback's "experiment" in Kansas that has turned out so badly even the Republican legislature has decided they have to raise taxes.  It's truly a zombie theory.

The Senate bill, dubbed the "Better Care Reconciliation Act" (how's that for irony?), takes an even sharper scalpel to Medicaid and sets in place a mechanism whereby Medicaid would be squeezed relentlessly in future years. And in a stroke of pure evil, the Senate bill would allow states to ask permission to reduce coverage requirements. One of the very positive things about Obamacare was that all policies had to provide a decent level of coverage for a list of things. The Senate bill would shred that list, taking us back to the good old days when insurance companies could offer bare-bones policies that were useless if you ever needed them. Planned Parenthood — all funding blocked for one year (and we all know how that would evolve). Mental health services — have all your problems before 2019 because after that mental health treatment won't be covered. The expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare? Phased out between 2021 and 2023, perhaps immediately if certain "trigger" conditions were met. And the taxes that the wealthy were asked to pay to help fund Obamacare? Poof! 

I'll note that NPR has a great chart comparing Obamacare to the House AHCA and the Senate BCRA.

Right now there are five Republican senators who have said they cannot support the bill "in its present form," and that includes two Senators, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, who were part of the committee ostensibly writing the bill!. It only takes three Republican defections to doom the bill, but no one should take comfort in the opposition of the five. There's always a lot of posturing with an eye to upcoming elections and in pursuit of special sweeteners to buy a yes vote. There's no reason to expect this to be any different, particularly in the case of the four ultra-conservatives who have announced opposition: Cruz, Lee, Paul, and Johnson.

It's always tempting to engage in wishful thinking: They wouldn't possibly be this heartless and cruel to our own citizens. That would be wrong. It's tempting to think that bureaucratic procedures would be a check on this madness: Well, even if the Senate passes it, the bill has to go back to the House and a conference committee has to agree on a single version that would have to be passed again by both houses. That is disconnected from reality, for how often have things happened that supposedly would never happen?

Meanwhile, the editorial cartoonists have been churning out their own version of op-eds. I'm always impressed at how they can distill a point down to a single frame drawing. But then, in these days of declining newspaper circulation, how many people actually see editorial cartoons? And, more to the point, how many allow their minds to think about them, if they do see them?

Last updated on Apr 13, 2018



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