Stop the Senate Republican Health Care Obscenity This Week

Robert Borosage

This is it. The Senate has to decide on health care. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell is pushing for a Thursday vote on the Senate plan that will deprive millions of Americans of health care coverage, and raise premiums to tens of millions more. There will be a procedural vote on Tuesday to open the debate, and a push for a vote on Thursday.

Protester Stephanie Woodward took this photo of a banner protesters hung in the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

This is the week to call your Senators – the number is 202-224-3121 – and to demonstrate in their offices in Washington, and in your state.

All across the country on Wednesday, June 28, People’s Action from Maine and Pennsylvania to West Virginia and Nevada will be sponsoring protests. But you needn’t wait. Make certain your Senator hears from you.

The Great Rollback

Any Senator who votes to open the debate on Tuesday or for the plan – named in Orwellian fashion – The Better Care Reconciliation Act – on Thursday is voting for the greatest rollback of basic services in U.S. history.

They are voting to close hospitals, shutter nursing homes, abandon babies at birth, force older workers to go without the care they need, leave the disabled without services. People will die needlessly if this bill becomes the law of the land.

The Senate bill is an obscenity wrapped in deception and shrouded by speed and secrecy. It was written behind closed doors by 13 white male Republican Senators who pocket an average of $214,000 in contributions from the drug and insurance companies from 2010 to November of last year.

This bill was unveiled only last Thursday; a hasty Congressional Budget Office assessment won’t be released until Monday; McConnell wants a final vote on Thursday. There were no hearings; no experts testified; no chance for the public to learn what’s in it. No Senator will have time to read this bill, much less master what it means.

The bill will strip tens of millions of Americans of health care coverage in order to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans — an average $50,000 annual tax cut for millionaires – and another $100 billion in tax giveaways for drug companies and insurers.

It dismantles Medicaid, the health care program that covers 20 percent of Americans, 39 percent of children, 49 percent of births, and 64 percent of nursing home patients. It deceives purposefully by phasing in the cuts over time.

The rollback of Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid – which has extended coverage to an additional 11 million people – will begin in three years. In 2025, the program will be capped, the states freed to dismantle it, and the federal subsidy will be cut in real terms over time. The eventual cuts will be even deeper than those in the House plan that even Donald Trump called “mean, mean, mean.”

Phasing the cuts in allows supporters to flat out deceive their voters. “Medicaid is not being cut from our perspective,” South Carolina Senator Tim Scott told reporters.

No One Loses?

Senator Pat Toomey says “no one loses coverage.” That is simply a lie, and an utter betrayal of the working people, disabled, elderly and children who will be put at risk in the future, when Toomey hopes no one will remember what he said.

The vote is far from a sure thing. Remarkably, all Senate Democrats are opposed so McConnell can afford to lose only two Republicans. Four conservatives – Rand Paul (Ark), Ron Johnson (Wisc), Ted Cruz (Texas) and Mike Lee (Utah) have said the bill isn’t mean enough. Several so-called Republican moderates – Susan Collins (Me), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Ron Portman (Ohio), Dean Heller (Nev), Shelley Moore Capito (WVa) – have wrung their hands and murmured discontent. Much of this, however, is simply posturing as they negotiate special breaks for their states. They’ll get small amendments, gestures, and claim that they’ve made the bill better. Don’t fall for the con.

The reality is hard to believe. It violates basic decency to give the wealthiest more tax breaks at the cost of stripping millions of basic health care coverage. It violates common sense to price adequate coverage out of the reach of older workers, or allow companies to drop coverage of their workers with the repeal of the employer mandate. Few will be pleased as millions of the elderly face nursing home closures. The nation will be shamed as some the vulnerable die needlessly as a result.

The Nation Magazine got it right: Republicans aren’t reforming health care; they are waging class war. Any Senator who votes for the Republican bill – the Better Care Reconciliation Act – should be thrown out of office.

The bill is a moral obscenity. The secrecy and rushed vote are indefensible. A vote in favor is a betrayal. McConnell cannot be allowed to shoehorn this through. Call your Senator. Tell Democrats to do what they can to block the process. Tell Republicans to stop before they do direct harm to tens of millions of Americans. Don’t put this off. The vote up or down is slated to be this week.

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