Republicans “Hail Mary” Healthcare Repeal is Blocked at the Goal Line

Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Little Rock   Leaving the KABF board meeting last evening, I stopped into the offices of the Arkansas Community Organizations, the old Arkansas ACORN, to see if they had gotten back from actions in Washington trying to block the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. There was a full house. I thanked one of the women who had been arrested trying to get the attention and support of the solidly Republican Arkansas delegation. They were all back home, safe and sound. We scratched our heads at the impossibility of understanding what a so-called “skinny” repeal might be, and went on our way.

I woke up to find that Arizona’s Senator John McCain, former Republican presidential candidate and Vietnam war prisoner and hero, still recovering from surgery and a likely fatal diagnosis of aggressive cancer, had cast the deciding vote to defeat the “skinny” repeal 51-48, joining two other Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski from Alaska and Susan Collins from Maine along with all Democratic Senators. Who knows the full list of McCain’s reasons, though his comments about the secretive and exclusionary process that Majority Leader McConnell had used to write and bring the matters forward, had long been dismissive and hypercritical. Collins for her part has long been critical of the Republican bills and especially the singling out of Planned Parenthood for defunding. Murkowski understands the need in Alaska for coverage from the lobbying of hunters, fisherman and others who have pleaded with her to keep the protection, but she also may have straightened her back in response to the ham-handed bullying the White House had tried to orchestrate using the secretary of the Interior Department, even though Murkowski herself as head of one committee on natural resources and a subcommittee on appropriations effectively holds the whip hand over Interior’s budget.

But, who cares the reasons, as long as the result is right in this case, because this whole process and its future prospects, had it been approved, was rotten to the core and a perversion of democracy, good government, and sound policy. It starts at the point the bill was being presented as a budgetary matter, even though it is larded up with everything under the sun from eliminating Planned Parenthood to removing essential coverage and mandates. Remember the Parliamentarian had already warned them these items were subject to challenge because they were out of bounds. McConnell had adopted this secretive and controversial strategy for the simple reasons that he doesn’t have the 60 votes to stop a filibuster and doesn’t want to work for a bipartisan fix on healthcare that would mean having to work with the Democrats. In the end he has also proven he doesn’t even have 50 votes at this point.

Furthermore, the strategy was to try and put a ribbon on a garbage bag, and then pass it over to the House so that maybe in a conference between the House and Senate, they could compact something together, since the House had already passed a draconian bill earlier. Several Senators, including McCain had demanded assurances from Speaker Ryan and the House, and he was trying to help them. How is this democratic? The peoples’ representatives can’t share the process with the people, but then go to another closed process to sort it out. Ryan reminded them in an aside that they would still have to get to 51 votes even after everything went through the grinder.

We’re dealing with a Republican healthcare replace-and-repeal zombie apocalypse. Is it really dead now except for Trump’s twitter rants? How will they fix what needs to be fixed? Will this ugly head be raised again? How many goal line stands can we win?

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Congressional Budget Office Scores House Health Bill with an “F”

Oakland    The Congressional Budget Office finished its nonpartisan, objective evaluation of the costs and impacts of their recently passed bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, and channeling Gertrude Stein found that there was “no there, there,” at least if any of us were looking for health insurance, especially when we have health problems.

Begin with the fact that they estimate that 23 million Americans will lose health insurance. I say “begin,” because there is no way to get an accurate view on how high that number could rise. The Republican bill, as written, gives states the ability to ask for waivers from an anti-healthcare Department of Human Services, which would rubber stamp the ability of states to eviscerate care for the individuals with preexisting conditions, women’s health needs, and allow skinnier and skinnier requirements from the plans, thereby eliminating the minimum health provisions of Obamacare for everyone on the program. Analysts report that the CBO usually consults with states in making its estimates, so the 23 million may include some, but this number would likely swell in the red states with “red” now not referring to the color of a map on election night, but instead standing for the blood draining out of these states’ dying people.

Furthermore in the CBO score, they reject the argument that Republicans have made that such miserly benefits will bring happy days with lower premiums and therefore more participation. The CBO flatly argues that the Republican House plan will end up with higher prices, especially because of the Medicaid cuts, and will collapse insurance markets because of the reduction of subsidies. Young people will get cheaper insurance though that will only be good news in the flower of youth, because if, and when, faced with any healthcare needs, young people will be as screwed as everyone else.

The CBO also totally dismissed the Republicans’ argument that “risk pools” would cover take care of Americans with preexisting conditions. If you read between the lines the CBO believes they will pretty much die as soon as they run out of money, and it won’t take long. The “risk pools” are inadequately funded in their view, and they have never worked. The dustbin of history is calling, but the House Republicans are determined to sell the scam. At least they are if they can keep their tempers when asked to defend their votes in favor of this trash, which wasn’t the case for the Montana Republican Congressional candidate facing a tough contest, who decided to body slam a British reporter for the nerve of asking him about his vote.

Some Senate Republicans might notice that one of the groups being slammed the hardest is older people. The New York Times analysis noted that “The cost of insurance for a 64-year-old earning about $27,000 would increase to more than $13,000, from $1,700 under the Affordable Care Act, even for states that pared back insurance rules.” Bad news, these folks actually vote and even with diminishing basic math skills, all of them will figure out that their bill would be almost half of their income.

There are some winners though, but in the Republican plan that’s the folks with the fatter wallets, especially if they are neither old nor poor. The Times reports, that “The bill makes big cuts to taxes on payroll and investment income for those earning more than $200,000, and provides more subsidies to buy insurance for people earning between about $50,000 and $150,000.”

There is no irony here, though their could be. Fewer subsidies for the poor, but more for wealthier families? How can anyone rationalize that? There’s a clue to their thinking though. Perhaps they are channeling HUD Secretary Ben Carson, and want us all to believe that health insurance is like poverty, “just a state of mind.”

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