There are currently two competing healthcare bills in Congress. They represent both extremes of the healthcare financing debate, which is what this is all about, after all. Both are ill-conceived, but for very different reasons. The first one is Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All single-payer bill. That is ill-conceived because the timing couldn’t be worse. If there is one thing that is obvious when it comes to introducing legislation that makes radical changes to society, it is timing. When you introduce a far-reaching bill like a single-payer health insurance law and it loses almost immediately, it is likely you will kill it for a good long time. Look at the Clinton Health Insurance reform debacle; it took 16 years for anyone to even propose another one, and the ACA was somewhat tamer, especially after a year of Republican “revision.”
The other bill is the Graham-Cassidy bill that is intended to “repeal” the ACA, which is the best thing to happen to health insurance in a century. I know, I know; you just got finished patting yourself on the back for engineering the defeat of the last several Republican healthcare debacles, but I tried to tell you; they weren’t finished. And they never will be. If it takes 200 bills, they will continue to try to kill it.
Unfortunately, of the two bills, the Graham-Cassidy last-ditch effort to repeal the ACA has the best chance of passing. That means we all have to mobilize (again) and call our Congresscritters (again) and make sure this piece of shit never passes. And make no mistake; this bill is a piece of shit. It’s actually worse than a full-on repeal because a full-on repeal would take at least a few years to take effect and in the meantime, insurance companies would try to work with it to make it better. They’re making record profits now, and they want to preserve those.
The problem with Graham-Cassidy is, it “starves the beast,” which is a Republican/Libertarian thing, in which they try to kill something they don’t like by withholding funds. It’s easier than repeal because it doesn’t sound like anyone loses anything. Except that they do. Under the ACA, Congress has to fund everything they agreed to provide, but with Graham-Cassidy, they basically take most funding away. Although the bill has not yet been scored by the CBO, many experts have suggested that 30-32 million Americans will lose their insurance coverage, which is more than under any of the previous “Trumpcare” bills. Almost immediately, all Medicaid expansion funds would cease. And if you think that only affects poor people, think again. Many seniors rely on Medicaid to cover what Medicare does not (shh… don’t tell Bernie Stans that Medicare doesn’t cover everything – they don’t want to hear it) and many families are only able to keep their loved ones in assisted living because of Medicaid funds. Many of these people will have to take care of Mom and Dad or a disabled family member on their own.
Graham-Cassidy will also allow states to opt out of protection for pre-existing conditions and annual and lifetime caps would be a thing of the past. This bill would also allow states to eliminate the requirement for essential benefits, thus making everyone’s insurance less valuable. Among those “essential benefits” under the ACA include pre-natal care and vaccinations for you and your kids. If you use or need any of those, you have to kill this bill. If that’s not bad enough, with fewer people covered and with less preventive care, it is expected that health insurance premiums will spike as much as 20 percent in the first year alone, with further increases after that. You can expect premiums to double in less than a decade.
It’s time for everyone to mobilize again. Call your Congressperson and your Senators and let them know this isn’t acceptable. That includes you “progressive independents.” Your pipe dream of getting single-payer health insurance can wait; if they kill the ACA, single-payer will never happen. Ever. One thing at a time. For now, let’s make sure everyone gets to keep the health insurance they have. That’s a priority right now. Again.
Until all progressives and liberals agree that Republicans have to go and make that happen, we can’t have the nice things you claim you want. Until we create a Democratic wave in 2018, we have to play defense. Elections matter.