GOP Health Repeal Is an Immoral Affront to the American People

Robert Borosage

The Republican health care bill slated for vote this week is an astounding immoral affront to the American people. It would strip tens of millions of health insurance and raise the costs for millions more, while claiming to protect them. It’s so bad, even its authors can only defend it with lies, evasions and flimflam.

The bill, known as Graham-Cassidy for its lead Senate co-sponsors, would savage Medicaid, leaving the most vulnerable in our society – the poor, the disabled, and the elderly – at grave risk. It does nothing to address the obscene price gouging by drug and insurance companies.

It has no support from Democrats. With a third Republican Senator – Maine’s Susan Collins – announcing her opposition, it may lack the votes. Yet 49 Republican Senators still are lined up to vote for this misbegotten bill, which was cooked up behind closed doors.

Lie After Lie

In a CNN debate its authors, Bill Cassidy from Louisiana and the unctuous Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, trotted out lie after lie about the bill. It was a shameless display of liars flaunting their skill at deception. The American people want health care. What do they get instead? Flimflam.

These two conmen paraded as populists, denouncing the drug companies and insurance companies that their bill would protect.

They claimed their bill would transfer all money currently spent by the Federal government for health care to the states, who can be trusted to spend it more wisely. In fact, the bill cuts about $1 trillion in health spending over a decade, then ends the block grant completely in 2027.

They promised those with pre-existing conditions would be protected when they will, in fact, be at risk of having access only to insurance that is simply unaffordable.

They prated on about how the states would be innovative and responsible, when in practice many Republican governors have already shown their contempt for millions of their most vulnerable citizens when they when they turned down the offer of expanded Medicaid funded by the Federal government under Obamacare.

A Window Closes

Graham-Cassidy is slated for a vote this week. This is the last chance for the bill to pass through the Senate with only 50 votes, with Vice President Pence casting a tiebreaking vote. This is under an arcane procedure known as reconciliation, which expires on Saturday. After that, they will need 60 votes to pass any health repeal, which they know they can’t get.

The thrust of this bill is clear. It repeals the Medicaid expansion that provided health insurance to 11 million people under Obamacare. It repeals the subsidies under health care reform that made insurance affordable to 9 million more. It ends the requirement that those with preexisting conditions be protected and that every insurance package provide core essential services, including maternity care and conception services.

In its place, it would give the states the authority to devise and manage their own health care systems. It would strip $1 trillion from the block grants in its first decade and imposing a per-capita cap on traditional Medicaid expenses that would cut more deeply over time. After ten years, the block grants would end entirely, and health care funding would drop off a cliff.

Payback Time

This bill was concocted in secret by a handful of Republicans. It was revealed only last week. It was changed three times yesterday to sweeten the pot for specific Senators. Few if any of the Senators prepared to vote on it this week will have read it. The sole token hearing of a few hours on the bill took place on Monday. The Congressional Budget Office has not been given time to do a full assessment of the bill.

The GOP’s grotesque and intentional effort to dodge responsibility comes from their rush to get the vote done before anyone can read it closely or examine its consequences.

As Republican Senator Charles Grassley – still a supporter – admitted, for Republicans it matters less what is in the repeal than that the repeal get done: “You know, I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered,” the Iowa Republican said. “But Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill.”

This isn’t simply fulfilling an election promise. Republicans want to use the money saved by stripping millions of health insurance to cover some of their intended tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. They would expose the vulnerable to benefit the few. That serves the demands of their donors and the partisan passions of their Tea Party zealots.

United in Outrage

Every major organization that represents the concerns of patients, of doctors, of the elderly and of the poor opposes this bill. Only 20 percent of the American people support it, according to the most recent CBS News poll. Anyone concerned with responsible governance can only be appalled. The bipartisan National Association of Medicaid Administrators opposes the bill, saying most states simply couldn’t set up the required independent state systems in the two years allotted for the change.

The pressure on Republicans to pass the bill is unrelenting. Citizens must ensure their Senators hear the depth of their opposition. This fight isn’t over until after September 30. Call your Senator now.

This bill is a clear statement. The 49 Republican Senators still lined up to vote for it are exposing their contempt for the American people. They are abdicating their responsibilities as legislators. They offend basic decency out of political expediency and partisan excess. This bill is the worst of the Republican efforts to roll back health care reform. That they still stand on the verge of passing it reveals exactly who they are. It is not a pretty sight.

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