If three caring, courageous Republican senators — out of 52 — do not step forward this week, the Affordable Care Act will be renamed.
But finis Obamacare? Not so fast. This is not the definitive, wholesale repeal the GOP promised for seven long years. Instead, the GOP approach is piecemeal. It repeals the taxes on wealthy people and insurance companies and the mandate that everyone either have health coverage or pay extra taxes.
Those provisions strip the heart and brain out of the ACA, meaning it will eventually die, but GOPcare contains a carefully staged life-support system so that the most devastating damage to millions of middle and lower income people, including Medicaid clients, is delayed until after the 2018 congressional elections, while the tax cuts and the mandate are immediate and visible to all.
This cynical intubation plan for the ACA is the main reason Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arranged for closed, secret meetings to write the Senate’s version, is allowing only a uselessly short time for debate, and is rushing to a vote before the July 4 recess.
He wants senators to be able to appear to fulfill their reckless and impossible seven-year pledge before their constituents understand how deeply it will endanger their lives and the lives of their children. If it doesn’t pass now, the July 4 break could be one endless midsummer thunderstorm of angry protests, particularly after the Congressional Budget Office analysis on Monday showed 22 million people would lose their insurance. Hot dogs, beer and camaraderie in the park it wouldn’t be.
McConnell insists that detailed hearings on the bill aren’t necessary because the issues have been thoroughly aired for years. But that belief — if it is a belief rather than pure mendacity — is very wrong. A Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll announced last week found that only 38 percent of respondents in their national sample know that GOPcare in either House or Senate version makes major reductions in Medicaid.
Medicaid, among other things, supports three-fourths of the elderly people in nursing homes and provides health insurance subsidies for 74 million people, including 40 percent of all American children.
Consider that 38 percent finding in juxtaposition to the fact that of those same Kaiser respondents, 74 percent have a favorable opinion of Medicaid; that 67 percent say Medicaid works well for low-income people in their state and that 51 percent favor the ACA against 30 percent favoring GOPcare.
In tracking polls, the same respondents are asked the same questions over time. The Kaiser study shows that the margins in favor of Medicaid and the ACA have grown slowly but steadily in recent months.
And yet only four in 10 of those people know that GOPcare will, over time, drastically reduce Medicaid. That means there are lots of under-informed or deceived people who could explode and explains why McConnell’s in such a hurry and why under his plan the tax cuts take place immediately but the Medicare cuts are put off until after the 2018 voting.
It’s also a plan that, over 10 years, will transfer almost $1 trillion from poor people to very wealthy people and insurance companies.
Three senators could stop that from happening. Then, perhaps, willing, reasonable congress members from both sides could agree on a stable, workable health-care fix — and a new nickname.
Davis Merritt, Wichita journalist and author, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.