President Trump promised health insurance for all, but – now dependent on the political protection of House Speaker Paul Ryan – he is supporting a plan that will push millions outside the system, writes Michael Winship.
By Michael Winship
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Donald Trump still insists he’s going to Make America Great Again! Mind you, it won’t be a healthy or vigorous America — in fact, it will be coughing and wheezing to the grave, but boy, will it be great!
If you ever needed further evidence that Trump doesn’t give a single good goddamn about the people who elected him, just look at his treacherous turnabout on health care. This Republican “repeal and replace” bill stinks on so many levels I’m tempted to say it should be taken far out to sea and dumped into the deepest depths of the Mariana Trench but I have too much regard for marine life, even the kind with the big googly eyes and the really scary teeth.
Remember that Trump was the carnival barker who declared during the campaign, “I am going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.” And right before his inauguration he told The Washington Post, “We’re going to have insurance for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”
Then along comes the proposed Republican bill, which over a decade, according to the now-famous report from the Congressional Budget Office, would see 24 million fewer Americans with coverage, doubling the number of uninsured. Trump’s own supporters would take it on the chin for what he tweeted is “our wonderful new health care bill.”
According to John McCormick at Bloomberg News: “Counties that backed him would get less than a third of the relief that would go to counties where Hillary Clinton won. The two individual tax cuts contained in the Republican plan to replace Obamacare apply only to high-earning workers and investors, roughly those with incomes of at least $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples.”
And remember all that nonsense about Obamacare’s “death panels,” a falsehood so rotten to the core it was declared PolitiFact’s 2009 Lie of the Year? Well, this Republican bill actually would kill people. Those older would pay more than the young, it would strip Planned Parenthood of funding and Medicaid programs would be slashed. It would eliminate money for the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provides epidemiology, immunization and health-screening programs. And there would be no mandate that employers with 50 employees or more provide coverage.
Julia Belluz at Vox reports on:“[V]ery high-quality studies on the impacts of health insurance on mortality, which come to some pretty clear estimates. This research suggests that we would see more than 24,000 extra deaths per year in the US if 20 million people lost their coverage. Again, 20 million is less than the 24 million the CBO thinks will lose insurance by 2026. So the death toll from an Obamacare repeal and replacement could be even higher.”
Ignoring the Needy
Notice that Trump has barely lifted a finger to assist those who need genuine reform that would bring quality care to all, the kind of help he promised as a candidate. Instead, he has directed his energies at helping Speaker Paul Ryan win over right-wing House members by promising to make the bill even crueler to those who need health care the most.
Take a look at this statement issued by tea partier and Alabama Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt after meeting with Trump on Friday, a statement so mind-boggling it’s worth quoting in full:
“President Trump called me to the Oval Office this morning to discuss the American Healthcare Act, because of his understanding that I could not support the current language of the bill. I expressed to the president my concern around the treatment of older, poorer Americans in states like Alabama. I reminded him that he received overwhelming support from Alabama’s voters.
“The president listened to the fact that a 64-year-old person living near the poverty line was going to see their insurance premiums go up from $1,700 to $14,600 per year. The president looked me in the eye and said, ‘These are my people and I will not let them down. We will fix this for them.’
“I also asked the president point blank if this House bill was the one that he supported. He told me he supports it ‘1,000 percent.’ After receiving the president’s word that these concerns will be addressed, I changed my vote to yes.”
Can you believe it? Trump’s behind the bill 1,000 percent, the President claims, but don’t worry, we’ll fix it. It’s hard to decide which of the two men is behaving more hypocritically: Trump saying he won’t let the people down or Aderholt claiming to believe the President actually will keep his word. Each is endorsing a cutthroat scheme that will bring nothing but grief to the people but hundreds of billions in tax breaks to the wealthy and vast profits to the insurance industry.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “The top 400 highest-income taxpayers — whose annual incomes average more than $300 million apiece — each would receive an average annual tax cut of about $7 million, we estimate from Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data.”
Andy Slavitt, who was President Obama’s acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told The Washington Post, “This is a massive tax cut for unpopular industries and wealthy individuals. It is about cutting care for lower-income people, seniors, people with disabilities and kids to pay for the tax cut.”
This is, in the words of Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, “a dumpster fire of a bill that was written on the back of a napkin behind closed doors because Republicans know this is a disaster.” But thanks to ineptitude and an inchoate, ill-planned rush to pass the legislation, it looks as if the current Republican bill may be on its way to failure, if not in the House then in the Senate.
Lucky us — for now. But if the GOP and Trump White House do manage to force on us anything short of what’s really needed – single-payer, universal health care — we’re doomed to live in a nation the motto of which may no longer be “In God We Trust” but instead, “Die young and leave a good-looking corpse.”
Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelWinship. [This article first appeared at http://billmoyers.com/story/trump-gop-prescription-america-dont-get-sick/]