Deductibles and premiums are too high. We can absolutely do better, but not by dropping a MOAB on the system.
The hope for the Senate Republican health care plan was that it would be more humane than its House counterpart, which President Trump labeled “mean.” It may be, but only in the sense that it’s more humane to shoot someone in the leg than to shoot them in the head.
As a Reagan-style conservative, I’m naturally suspicious of new entitlement programs. But I also have multiple sclerosis, a painful and chronic disease. In 1999, my doctors told me that I wouldn’t live past 60 — but in two weeks I’ll be 61. Proving them wrong has been the hardest fight of my life. And it’s been expensive.
Although I’m blessed to afford the best of the best in medical coverage, I’ve known and lost many friends who weren’t so fortunate. Most Americans without health insurance, after all, are living one diagnosis away from bankruptcy. I’m also the father of a two-time cancer survivor who was able to stay on my insurance plan because of Obamacare. So when Trump called for “repeal and replace” without offering any specifics or any sympathy for those who depend on it, I was disgusted.
And I still am. Because here’s the truth: This new health care plan is simply a tax cut for the rich, offering billions to pharmaceutical companies, wealthy investors, and health insurance companies at the expense of the most vulnerable. In his victory speech, Trump promised to lift up the “forgotten men and women” of this country. Instead, under Trumpcare, they’ll be crushed and left to die.
More than 20 million people would lose insurance under the House bill, and this new Senate bill could be worse. The recent expansion of Medicaid to millions more low-income Americans will be ended as of 2024, becoming an unfunded program that individual states can choose to implement, or not. Furthermore, the bill weakens efforts to address the nation’s opioid epidemic, allowing states to decide whether insurers should cover substance abuse treatment. This bill, in short, is a sham. It’s a very dangerous press release. Those most hurt will be the ones who put Trump in the White House.
We’ve been told Obamacare is on the brink of collapse, that it’s too limiting, that it’s unsustainable. Rare are the stories about the lives it has saved — including my daughter’s — or about the reasons for its flaws. With few exceptions, the states experiencing the worst problems with Obamacare are the ones that refused to set up exchanges and-or engaged in a deliberate sabotage effort.
Yes, Obamacare has flaws, as you might expect from any law of its size in its infancy —including the costs on businesses and higher insurance rates for many. Deductibles are too high and premiums are the largest single expense for many households.
But instead of tackling these problems and striving for bipartisan solutions, the health care debate has become a proxy war for issues like abortion and tax cuts for the wealthy. The phrase “bipartisan solutions” may sound like an oxymoron these days, but believe it or not, there are politicians who want to find them on health care — including Republicans like Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Maine Sen. Susan Collins.
We can absolutely do better, but not by dropping a MOAB (mother of all bombs) on the system. The solution, as it so often does, lies in both sides sitting down, stopping the stupid and figuring out how we move forward together.
Above all, we need to take patients off the political battlefield. Health care discussions should be about the effective delivery of health care, plain and simple. Democrats need to admit that Obamacare isn’t perfect, and Republicans have to stop using health care as a disguise for a massive tax cut for the rich.
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For seven years, House Speaker Paul Ryan and congressional Republicans told us they had “a better way.” Many voters took them at their word. We’re finding now, however, that Republicans had no replacement plan, instead cobbling one together last minute. Most likely, congressional Republicans believed they’d never have to actually repeal Obamacare. I’m betting many of them are praying that enough colleagues oppose the bill so that it simply dies, allowing them to blame Democratic obstruction.
At the end of the day, I don’t want another tax cut at the expense of another father not being able to get his daughter the lifesaving care I was able to provide my daughter. No father should have to choose between back-breaking debt and his child’s life. That is the inevitable result of the Senate proposal.
Republicans need to own the fact they’ve created a monster by lying to the base for the last seven years. They need to come clean. The truth is that they don’t really think this is a good bill. They are afraid of their own voters, to whom they gave a bad idea as a battle cry.
Montel Williams, a 22-year veteran of the Marine Corps and Navy who served primarily as a special duty intelligence officer, went on to start the Emmy-award-winning Montel Williams Show that ran for 17 seasons. Follow him on Twitter @Montel_Williams.
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