By Chris Takahashi | Staff Writer
Last Friday, as Congress readied itself for its August recess, an important vote took place concerning the Republican-championed healthcare bill to repeal portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as “Obamacare.”
Playing spoiler to the desires of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump was none other than Senator John McCain. The senator from Arizona cast a critical “no” vote that effectively stymied efforts for what many Republicans have referred to as a “skinny repeal” of the ACA. Hours before the vote, Trump tweeted the following, “Go Republican Senators, Go! Get there after waiting for 7 years. Give America great healthcare!”
If Trump were to really take the pulse of how everyday Americans felt about the failed proposal (it had a 17 percent approval rating) or acknowledged some kernel of truth about the possible implications for such an act (15 million less insured due to repeal of the individual mandate and subsidies according to the Congressional Budget Office), he would have smartly modified the last sentence of his tweet. He still had a few characters left in Twitter’s 140-word character budget so that last line could have looked a bit different. But to ask for some semblance of truth from this administration is clearly too much. It’s best to just be fluent in Orwellian-style doublespeak to really know what’s going on here.
There’s literally nothing “great” about any of the Republican efforts to repeal and replace the ACA from over the last seven years. The Republican approach to healthcare relies on stripping away common-sense principles of the ACA that have since become supported by many. What we need in this country is a sustained push for universal coverage. Fortunately, we have an idea for how this can be done by looking to models from other industrialized nations.
The Republican efforts aimed to—but were not limited to—deny health insurance coverage plans for those with pre-existing conditions and access to services deemed “essential”: maternity services, preventative care, prescription drug coverage, etc. The latter are all required by each insurance plan under the scope of the ACA. The Republican plan sought to do away with these, and additionally, eliminate both the individual and employer mandate.
Elimination of the individual mandate strikes at the core of the ethical debate of how healthcare is prioritized in this country. There is a preponderance of evidence, best viewed in the form of charts, that shows how the United States ranks in comparison to other industrialized countries on the subject. You have to seriously distort the facts if you want to pretend that we provide better coverage and health outcomes (infant mortality rate, life expectancy, etc.) at a lower cost.
Sure, you can read stories of leaders from less-developed countries visiting the United States to see specialists and to arrange for life-saving surgeries. One can argue that we have some of the best physicians and hospitals in the world. And true, for money you get honey, but that, unfortunately, seems to be the underlying message from the Republican Party for receiving exemplary medical services. Equitable access to healthcare does not coexist in a free-market approach to healthcare as advocated by the right.
It would seem indicative of a soon-to-be changing of the guard when the Republican members of Congress today advocate wildly unpopular policies for healthcare. Ironically, and assuming the legislative push is tabled for the foreseeable future, will their failure to repeal the ACA serve as some type of inadvertent damage control for the midterm elections in 2018? It’s mere speculation but quite possible. Regardless, let’s hold them accountable for even making such an attempt.