When Republicans in the House of Representatives passed their healthcare bill last month, they did so with full knowledge that it was an unpopular bill. Dubbed the “American Health Care Act,” or “AHCA,” but inevitably referred to by many as “Trumpcare,” the bill polled poorly across the entire United States. Yet, having vowed for the better part of a decade to repeal and replace Obamacare (or the ACA), House Republicans seemed determined to drive the bill through, whether because they actually believed in it or because they simply wanted to have accomplished what they set out to do.
Still, most analysts declared there was very little chance the bill as it was constructed at that time would become law. According to Danielle Kurtzleben of NPR’s account of the bill’s CBO score, it would leave approximately 23 million Americans uninsured in the long run. Needless to say, that’s not a number any politician wants to have to defend to his or her constituents, and this is one reason most have assumed that Republicans in the Senate would either reject AHCA outright or else thoroughly restructure it before approving it themselves.
That may still be what ends up happening. But frankly, we have no way of knowing right now because Republicans in the Senate are approaching their own AHCA vote with a degree of secrecy and cynicism that is virtually unprecedented in modern lawmaking. If that sounds a little bit harsh, here’s a look at everything wrong with Mitch McConnell and Co.’s process so far.
That “Obamacare Is Collapsing” Is A Myth
This is one of the most popular lines used by Republican lawmakers to defend the very need to repeal and replace the ACA. The logic is that insurers are pulling out of states because they don’t benefit from the ACA, and thus there is little competition, leaving remaining insurers to up their prices. That does indeed paint a nasty little picture, but it’s a very convenient expression of what’s actually happening. While something like this situation has happened in some states, comprehensive analysis of Obamacare consistently disproves the idea that the problem exists on a broad scale. Insurers are found stable comfort zones, enrollment for Obamacare has been up, and more and more Americans are securing quality health insurance.
It’s also worth noting that GOP efforts can directly undermine Obamacare, making it seem as if the law is collapsing when in fact it’s being sabotaged. For that matter, the AHCA would accomplish some of the same goals. Take Medicare and Medicaid for example. According to MyMedigapPlans.com, more and more insurance companies are getting the Medicare supplement business due to the influx of baby boomers, which is to say Medicare and Medicaid are being used more than ever before. Yet some analyses of the AHCA have suggested it would drastically harm these programs. There are many other examples as well, but the summary is this: Obamacare will only collapse if it’s made to by the political party that currently controls all major branches of government.
Mitch McConnell’s Deadline Is Purely Political
We’ve recently learned that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell intends to force a health care vote before July 4th, meaning we’ll probably know how the AHCA debate is going to shake out within the next few weeks. There’s definitely something to be said in politics for imposing soft deadlines and motivating congressmen to action. But in this case the decision by McConnell to rush a vote appears to be purely political – and by extension, wholly irresponsible.
Congress is on recess for the July 4th holiday, and this has already proven to be a hazardous condition for Obamacare repeal. During a previous recess, Republican House members were harassed by angry and desperate constituents at town hall meetings, and as a result the first attempt at the AHCA didn’t even make it to the floor for a vote. McConnell’s deadline indicates that he’s fully aware of the possibility that this could happen again. He knows the AHCA is wildly unpopular, and appears to be attempting to shove it through the Senate before constituents have a chance to make themselves heard about it. This shows direct disregard for the voice of the people, and is increasingly being referred to as an anti-Democratic process by GOP critics.
The Mystery Is Unusual
When Obamacare was being worked through the government, there were over 100 hearings on it, and dozens of Republican amendments were added to the bill. Not all of this happened in public, but some of it certainly did, and people who cared to pay attention had at least a general understanding of what the bill included and how it was being passed. There was almost a direct response approach, in fact, which is a marketing approach that relies on the idea that informing the audience is an essential step in selling a product or idea. Showing people not just what you’re doing but what it means and how it can help them is a terrific way to drum up support – or at the very lest, reasoned opposition that can be productive in time.
By contrast, McConnell and his colleagues appear to be doing everything they can to keep the public uninformed about the bill, their process, and whether or not it’s any closer to becoming law. Seemingly every day Senate Republicans are interviewed by media members and make references to their own ignorance of the bill’s progress. The image being presented to the public is that the AHCA is being worked on in private, behind closed doors, and we’ll simply see it when we see it. It’s an awfully secretive way to construct a bill that effects Americans’ health and impacts a massive portion of the national economy.
The President Isn’t Even On Board
As much as Democrats would love to blame Donald Trump for the bill itself, it’s beginning to appear as if all he’s really guilty of in this process is ignorance and a stunning disregard for the significance of the subject. Trump recently referred to the AHCA as it was passed by the House as “mean,” despite celebrating its passing as if he’d already won re-election. That more or less seems to sum up the attitude, however: it may be “mean,” but if it scraps Obamacare it’s something for Republicans in government to celebrate.
But at least 23 million Americans won’t be celebrating with them.