When I sat down to write about yesterday’s vote in the U.S. House, I discovered that Paul Waldman had beaten me to it, with a column so detailed and scorching that there is no way I could equal it.
Waldman titled his piece “Every Republican Who Voted for this Abomination Must be Held Accountable.” His words fairly sizzle on the screen–and for good reason.
I won’t mince words. The health-care bill that the House of Representatives passed this afternoon, in an incredibly narrow 217-to-213 vote, is not just wrong, or misguided, or problematic or foolish. It is an abomination. If there has been a piece of legislation in our lifetimes that boiled over with as much malice and indifference to human suffering, I can’t recall what it might have been. And every member of the House who voted for it must be held accountable.
Waldman starts with process criticisms: the GOP passed this bill without holding a single hearing on it. They were desperate to hold the vote before the Congressional Budget Office could issue a report describing its effects. Hardly anyone had an opportunity to read the damn thing. And as Waldman points out, “all this despite the fact that they are remaking one-sixth of the American economy and affecting all of our lives.”
In contrast, the Affordable Care Act (which Republicans constantly claim was “rammed through”) was debated for an entire year and was the subject of dozens of hearings.
Waldman notes that every major stakeholder organization vocally opposed this bill: the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the AARP, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and on and on.
But then he gets to the horrifying details. Quoting from his exhaustively researched article:
- Takes health insurance away from at least 24 million Americans; that was the number the CBO estimated for a previous version of the bill, and the number for this one is probably higher.
- Revokes the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, which provided no-cost health coverage to millions of low-income Americans.
- Turns Medicaid into a block grant, enabling states to kick otherwise-eligible people off their coverage and cut benefits if they so choose.
- Slashes Medicaid overall by $880 billion over 10 years.
- Removes the subsidies that the ACA provided to help middle-income people afford health insurance, replacing them with far more meager tax credits pegged not to people’s income but to their age. Poorer people would get less than they do now, while richer people would get more; even Bill Gates would get a tax credit.
- Allows insurers to charge dramatically higher premiums to older patients.
- Allows insurers to impose yearly and lifetime caps on coverage, which were outlawed by the ACA. This also, it was revealed today, may threaten the coverage of the majority of non-elderly Americans who get insurance through their employers.
- Allows states to seek waivers from the ACA’s requirement that insurance plans include essential benefits for things such as emergency services, hospitalization, mental health care, preventive care, maternity care, and substance abuse treatment.
- Provides hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for families making over $250,000 a year.
- Produces higher deductibles for patients.
- Allows states to try to waive the ACA’s requirement that insurers must charge people the same rates regardless of their medical history. This effectively eviscerates the ban on denials for preexisting conditions, since insurers could charge you exorbitant premiums if you have a preexisting condition, effectively denying you coverage.
- Shunts those with preexisting conditions into high-risk pools, which are absolutely the worst way to cover those patients; experience with them on the state level proves that they wind up underfunded, charge enormous premiums, provide inadequate benefits and can’t cover the population they’re meant for. Multiple analyses have shown that the money the bill provides for high-risk pools is laughably inadequate, which will inevitably leave huge numbers of the most vulnerable Americans without the ability to get insurance.
- Brings back medical underwriting, meaning that just like in the bad old days, when you apply for insurance you’ll have to document every condition or ailment you’ve ever had.
One significant item Waldman’s list omits: the measure also defunds Planned Parenthood.
Every single Indiana Republican voted to do this to the American public and the citizens of Indiana.
I expected those votes from Rokita, Walorski, Banks and Bucshon, and I’m disappointed but not surprised by Messer and “Tennessee Trey.” But I am disgusted by Susan Brooks, because I’ve known her a long time; unlike her colleagues, she’s highly intelligent–and she knows better. I’ve watched her abandon integrity in vote after vote (during her first two years, her voting record was virtually indistinguishable from that of Michelle Bachmann.) I’ve watched her hide from her constituents during the recent Congressional recess. And now, I’ve watched her obediently vote with the lunatic caucus of her party for legislation that is not only absolutely indefensible, but will disproportionately harm women. It makes me physically ill.
Again, Waldman says it best:
Perhaps this bill will never become law, and its harm may be averted. But that would not mitigate the moral responsibility of those who supported it. Members of Congress vote on a lot of inconsequential bills and bills that have a small impact on limited areas of American life. But this is one of the most critical moments in recent American political history. The Republican health-care bill is an act of monstrous cruelty. It should stain those who supported it to the end of their days.
If Hoosiers (and other Americans) don’t begin working right now to defeat every single Representative who voted for this cynical assault on decency and basic humanity, we deserve what we get.