Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Republicans Finagling Passage of AHCA

The Republican-led House passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) May 4, without waiting for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) assessment of the plan. Last week, May 24th, the CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) provided their assessment, which was required before the bill could be sent to the Senate for consideration. The CBO results were bad, just as republicans anticipated. Nevertheless, they plan to go ahead with their pledge to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Why? Because it plays to their base, and because it’s another brick in the Obama legacy wall they are intent on tearing down. They need bricks, lots of bricks, to build "The Wall."

Republican debates and machinations on the health care bill have been held behind closed doors. Members have no doubt been threatened with severe repercussions should they leak anything to the Press (after all, one Texas republican recently threatened to shoot a colleague in the head over an altercation on immigration). What has emerged however, is that Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and his cohorts are attempting to have the AHCA considered under special budget rules designed to protect it from Democratic defeat.

The Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough and her staff will decide whether Republicans can use the budget reconciliation process to pass the AHCA in the Senate. Under the budget reconciliation process, Republicans would only need 50 "yes" votes from GOP members to pass the healthcare bill, assuming no Democrats vote for the bill and Vice President Mike Pence casts a tie-breaking vote — both good assumptions.

Republicans are promoting the AHCA’s estimated $119 billion reduction of the U.S. deficit over ten years, $11.9b per year. For perspective, that’s 1.4% of the 2018 U.S. military budget. The reduction comes through steep reductions in Medicaid and the replacement of current subsidies with less-generous tax credits.

Among other things, the republican plan would leave some 23 million people without health insurance. People age 50 to 64 would be hit particularly hard, especially those with lower incomes. According to the CBO, premiums for a 64-year-old earning $26,500 a year would increase by a whopping $14,400 in 2026. In addition, people with preexisting conditions may not even be able to purchase health insurance because the prices would be prohibitively high.

One republican lawmaker, Rep Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, recently claimed in a heated town hall meeting that, “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.” Of course we know through tragic experience that isn’t true — and studies have validated that experience. People do die because they lack access to health care. Usually, the people who die are the elderly, sick, and disabled. Who knows, killing off people who drive up health care costs may be the republicans’ nefarious plan — all that talk about “death panels” gave them the idea.

Homeless in Los Angeles

So, what to do?

Well, there are some republicans who appear troubled by the cruelty of this bill. There are others, of course, for whom any federal government subsidized healthcare is anathema. Forget them. Focus on the former, they include: Dean Heller (Nev), Patrick Toomey (PA), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Bill Cassidy (La), and John Hoeven (N.D.). Jeff Flake, and John McCain, both of Arizona (Flake is up for reelection in 2018), Susan Collins (ME). Use your social media smarts to email, tweet (they all have Twitter accounts), and post of their Facebook pages. Call their offices. Use your Facebook to identify your FB friends who reside in the state of one of these swing senate votes and urge them to contact their representatives. Just DO WHAT YOU CAN DO!

And continue to bombard Rep Dan Newhouse with calls, emails, postcards, tweets, Facebook comments, and requests for face-to-face meetings. Real life anecdotes work best.

Please share what you're doing on our various group Facebook pages.

Stronger together!

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