Email #149: “the old way of doing things”?

I was disappointed to read yesterday evening that the House intends to vote on the now twice-amended American Health Care Act today and that you intend to support it. I tried to leave a message on your DC answering machine, but a recording informed me that it was already full.

Although the amendments have enabled the GOP to bring together the rightwing Freedom Caucus and the comparatively moderate Tuesday Group in the House, the bill remains fundamentally flawed and its prospects in the Senate remain poor.

As before, the bill will cut nearly $900 billion from Medicaid by reversing the ACA Medicaid expansion. This alone is reason for every member of Congress to oppose it. And yet you’ve stated that you support the AHCA specifically because it does this. You say the national debt should be reduced by stripping health care from millions of Americans, even while expanding military spending and reducing taxes for the those in the highest income brackets.

You have also stated that you support the ACA’s ban on pre-existing conditions, and yet the revised AHCA weakens that ban. Speaker Ryan is disguising that fact, tweeting on Tuesday: “MacArthur Amendment strengthens AHCA, protects people with pre-existing conditions.” Allowing insurance companies to charge new patients with pre-existing conditions higher premiums does not “protect” those patients. According to the Commonwealth Fund, 30 million Americans will be vulnerable to these state waivers. And yet some Republicans consider the MacArthur amendment to be an improvement.

The latest amendment adds $8 billion taxpayer dollars to the $138 billion going to companies to offset the cost of insuring sick and elderly patients who will be moved to the new “high-risk pools.” Under the ACA, there are no high-risk or low-risk pools. There’s only one pool, which automatically offset costs. Your bill shifts that burden to taxpayers instead of market forces. Worse, the extra $8 billion still isn’t enough. According to the Center for American Progress, the funds will only cover 700,000 people. That’s only 5% of those currently using the ACA. The AHCA’s radically underfunded “high-risk pools” are designed to fail, stripping the most neediest Americans of health care.

The amended AHCA is a terrible way of replacing the ACA. According to the Illinois Health and Hospital Association: “It’s worse. We hate it. We’re still opposing it, and we’re again contacting our delegation, especially the Republicans: Do not support it when it hits the floor.” Patient, doctor, and hospital organizations–from the American Heart Association to the March of Dimes–oppose the bill in what the New Jersey Hospital Association calls “almost uniform opposition.”

The AHCA’s only supporters are the insurance companies that will profit under it. According to the former CEO of Molina Healthcare: “They don’t like the health insurance tax and they would like to return to a time when they could exclude people with pre-existing conditions. For them it would be a good thing to go back to the old way of doing things.”

Conservative politicians often rally around that sort of slogan, promising voters that America will “go back to the old way of doing things.” But if the GOP uses the flawed American Health Care Act to repeal so-called Obamacare, the backlash will unite conservative, centrist, and progressive voters.

You’re going to need a lot more storage space on your answering machine.




Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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