By Doug Porter
Like a dog finally catching up with the car it’s been chasing, the Republicans are now faced with the question of “what do we do now?” when it comes to Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act.
Each of San Diego’s Congressional districts has roughly 30,000 people covered, thanks to the provisions of the law. There are 121,500 people employed in the healthcare industry locally, contributing $17.2 billion annually to the area’s economy. So any changes to the way the system currently functions are bound to have a broad social and economic impact.
The text of the GOP’s replacement health care plan was reportedly finalized over the weekend, with House Speaker Paul Ryan, Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, HHS Secretary Tom Price, among others, hashing out details via a conference call on Saturday.
Currently, the plan is for the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees to hold hearings on different pieces of the legislation as soon as Wednesday.
The full House could vote on an Obamacare repeal bill by the end of March, sending it to the Senate, where a much longer debate is expected.
There have been so many different versions of the healthcare law leaked, I’ll spare you most of the–subject-to-change–details. Suffice it to say the broader principles of less taxation for the wealthy, preservation of power for the patriarchy, and less actual health care for the rest of us will prevail.
All the Republican proposals brought to light thus far would eliminate the requirement for insurers cover 10 essential health benefits. Back in the pre-Obamacare era, a sizable share of plans did not cover such core components of care like prescription drugs, maternity care, mental health care, along with pediatric dental and vision care.
One thing I know for sure: this will be one heck of a legislative battle. Or, as President Trump muttered recently, who knew healthcare reform could be so hard? And we should make it even harder. Read through to the end of this column for suggestions on how you can do that.
The ‘Just Say No’ Faction in Action
The New York Times published an article on Sunday saying health care hardliners funded by the Koch brothers are pushing for a fast-tracked no-compromise resolution.
This latest effort, according to the Times, can be summarized as “repeal, replace or revolt.”
Their message is blunt and unforgiving, with the goal of reawakening some of the most extensive conservative grass-roots networks in the country. It is a reminder that even as Republicans control both the White House and Congress for the first time in a decade, the party’s activist wing remains restless and will not go along passively for the sake of party unity.
With angry constituents storming town hall-style meetings across the country and demanding that Congress not repeal the law, these new campaigns are a sign of a growing concern on the right that lawmakers might buckle to the pressure.
“We’ve been patient this year, but it is past time to act and to act decisively,” said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, which is coordinating the push with other groups across the Kochs’ political network. “Our network has spent more money, more time and more years fighting Obamacare than anything else. And now with the finish line in sight, we cannot allow some folks to pull up and give up.”
A Diverse Opposition
Lining up against the hardliners are major advocacy groups representing patients, doctors, hospitals and now even businesses, a traditional Republican ally.
Seven years of the Affordable Care Act–with all its flaws– have convinced these groups that returning to the ‘good old days’ just isn’t a viable solution.
Ultimately, Republican ideas for replacing the law will involve some combination of fewer people insured and weaker coverage for those who have insurance. That doesn’t sit well with hospitals, which end up taking losses when people who need care can’t pay for it.
Likely changes to the tax treatment of employer health insurance–because it’s about the only way Republicans can agree on to pay for any benefits–have both businesses and unions ready to join the opposition.
Republican Senators and Governors representing states with major coverage gains have voiced serious reservations about making cuts to popular programs created by the existing law.
The American Association of Retired People (AARP) is now encouraging its members to call congressional offices because it’s considered likely any replacement bill will allow premium increases on older people by loosening regulations on insurance companies.
Activists with Indivisible and like-minded groups have been hounding GOP Congressman over health care policy at town halls and swamping their offices with phone calls.
Despite all the opposition, the House leadership has deemed it necessary to fast-track legislation. Getting any bill through the Senate is another matter, however.
From the Los Angeles Times:
John Desser, a former health official in the George W. Bush administration and former aide to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), predicted Ryan would rally his caucus and get the 218 votes he’ll need.
“The speaker has lived and breathed health policy for over two decades, and may just be perfectly positioned … to bring together his conference and explain the opportunity they have to get this right to reluctant or recalcitrant members,” he said
But Desser, now a vice president for eHealth, an online insurance marketplace, cautioned that other challenges await.
“Getting it through the Senate after that may require the gravity-defying leadership of Mr. Trump and his team,” he said.
A Huge Blow for Women in California
One of the basic tenets of any of the GOP healthcare ‘reform’ involves defunding Planned Parenthood. Supposedly this has to do with stopping abortions.
The federal government is already prohibited from paying for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life. But that’s not good enough for the pro-theocracy wing of the GOP.
If you drill down far enough with these folks, you’ll discover their real goals have much more to do with birth control. And eliminating birth control is central to keeping women in subservient roles.
From the Mercury News:
A draft House GOP bill obtained by Politico would eliminate all federal funding to Planned Parenthood as part of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. While that provision is likely to clear the House, its fate is uncertain in the Senate, where several moderate Republicans could side with Democrats who support abortion rights.
But if the effort were to prevail, California Planned Parenthood would lose $260 million a year in federal funds — approximately 80 percent of its operating budget. Unless it found a way to replenish that money elsewhere, the organization warns, it might have to close its 82 California sites furnishing basic health care and family planning services to mostly low-income patients.
Meanwhile, its remaining 33 surgical abortion sites — which don’t get federal funding — would remain open, said Kathy Kneer, president and CEO of California Planned Parenthood.
Not So Fast, Says Indivisible
This rush to roll back healthcare protections is not a done deal by any stretch, as Indivisible explained in its national call to action for this week:
Over February’s congressional recess, you turned out in record numbers to share with your Members of Congress (MoCs) what the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) means to you. You warned them about the serious consequences of repeal—both for the nation’s health and for their reelection chances.
Congress took notice. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said that your objections might prevent them from passing a repeal bill. They’re scared of any more pushback, so they’re trying to pull a fast one. Their plan is to keep the contents of the bill a secret and pass it quickly to prevent opposition from forming. They think they can get away with rushing their bill through. We can’t let them get away with it. And if we continue to stand indivisible, they won’t.
How to stand indivisible with the 32 million Americans who rely on the ACA
- Join the Indivisible Emergency Call on Defending Obamacare. Health care experts will be on hand to provide an overview of what’s happening and what you can do to stop the repeal of Obamacare. When: Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 7 at 9 PM EST RSVP here.
- Tell your MoCs to demand a fully transparent process for any legislative action on the ACA, including requiring a public Congressional Budget Office cost estimate (“score”) before any vote. This week, House Republicans plan to rush their repeal bill through two committees, and MoCs will only have a few hours to review the bill. We’ve got a brand new script for contacting your MoC’s office. Make it clear: No Score, No Vote.
The next major congressional recess isn’t until April, and the MoCs pushing for repeal would love to repeal Obamacare before then so that they don’t have to answer any more pesky questions. Our response: Not so fast.
Note: The San Diego Free Press will not publish on Wednesday.
— Women’s March (@womensmarch) March 6, 2017
Damn, I Missed a Money-Making Opportunity!
Tweeted out from the Make America Great Again demonstration on Saturday:
— Brett Winterble (@WinterbleShow) March 5, 2017
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
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