After a month of secret negotiations, Senate Republicans unveiled their own version of health care reform legislation yesterday that, like the House bill, tinkers around the edges of the Obamacare system but leaves the fundamentals of the failing program in place.
It is yet another sobering reminder that the Washington establishment, including GOP congressional leadership, has never wanted to repeal Obamacare, whose built-in obsolescence was written into the program specifically to bring about the collapse of the health care insurance system and usher in single-payer. Republican leaders want to keep Obamacare around so they can continue running against it. Politicians do, after all, need villains, real or imagined, to get out the vote. Republican lawmakers, despite their rhetoric, chafe at the idea of getting rid of the program because it gives them power over one-sixth of the national economy.
President Trump, who speaks frequently of the importance of repealing Obamacare and giving patients more choices, may be in a hurry to drain the swamp in Washington, but the swamp is in no hurry to be drained.
Four courageous conservatives have already spoken truth to power by coming out against the language in the new draft bill. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) want market-based reforms, not changes to Obamacare designed to prolong its life.
"Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor,” the quartet of lawmakers said in a joint statement.
“There are provisions in this draft that represent an improvement to our current healthcare system but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their healthcare costs."
Ken Cuccinelli, president of Senate Conservatives Action, described the draft as “another betrayal” by McConnell.
After writing the bill behind closed doors, McConnell has once again done exactly the opposite of what he told the voters he would do. MitchCare keeps Obamacare's coverage mandates, it keeps Obamacare's costly Medicaid spending, and it keeps Obamacare's subsidies. If it passes, it will lead to endless bailouts, price increases, and debt – all blamed on Republicans and the free market.
Despite this there will be a bipartisan pantomime in coming days as both Republicans and Democrats will try to satisfy their various constituencies by pretending the measure will repeal Obamacare. Unless a real alternative plan that rips Obamacare out root and branch emerges, the battle on Capitol Hill over the bill will be just another political turf war as Republicans compete with Democrats to be tax collectors for the ever-expanding welfare state. Fortunately, there is still plenty of time left in the 115th Congress for conservative lawmakers to write a bill that actually repeals Obamacare.
But for now, “in reality, nobody is repealing Obamacare, nobody is addressing the core health care issues in America, and nobody is offering a vision of freedom, prosperity, and a solvent health care and health insurance market,” Daniel Horowitz writes at Conservative Review.
“Everything is working within the confines of the most extreme socialist baseline from the Obama era.”
Leftist Jonathan Gruber, an economics professor at MIT, said on CNN yesterday that the Senate document “is no longer an Obamacare repeal bill. That's good.”
Gruber ought to know. He was brought in by the Obama administration to help write the Obamacare bill. He admitted in a series of videos that the bill was deliberately written "in a tortured way" to conceal that it constructed a system in which "healthy people pay in and sick people get money." The bill’s "lack of transparency [was] a huge political advantage" in advocating for it and preyed on the “stupidity of the American voter.”
The 142-page “discussion draft” of the proposed “Better Care Reconciliation Act” is already stirring up opposition from senators representing both parties, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) intends to press for a vote on it before lawmakers flee Washington for the Fourth of July recess at the end of next week. (The text of the draft bill is available here.)
McConnell pushed almost all the right conservative buttons when he introduced the proposal on the Senate floor.
Obamacare was supposed to lower costs, but it didn’t, he said.
From 2013 to 2017, premiums have on average doubled in the vast majority of states on the federal exchange. … This year, 70 percent of American counties have had little or no choice of insurers under Obamacare. Next year, at least 44 counties are projected to have no choice at all — meaning, yet again, Americans could be thrown off their plans in states like Missouri, and Ohio, and Wisconsin.
Obamacare “isn’t working, by nearly any measure it has failed, and no amount of 11th hour reality-denying or buck-passing by Democrats is going to change the fact that more Americans are going to get hurt unless we do something,” he said.
The measure, the senator said, would repeal the individual and employer mandates, abolish Obamacare taxes passed on to consumers, expand tax-free health savings accounts (HSAs) and create new tax credits to defray out-of-pocket costs, while providing the states with “more flexibility to provide more Americans with the kind of affordable insurance options they actually want.”
In fact, the draft bill not only bails out Obamacare instead of repealing it, but also inflicts lasting damage on Republicans, Daniel Horowitz writes.
The Senate proposal “is essentially a more liberal version of the House bill, which, in itself, was a more insolvent version of Obamacare that Republicans will now own.”
“The bill does not repeal the actuarily insolvent regulations, the core element of what has destroyed insurance in America. Even the few minor regulatory reforms or state waivers that are in the House bill were stripped out.”
Many conservatives say the bill backed by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) that the House barely passed May 4 is a step in the right direction, but few argue that is a true repeal of Obamacare, the GOP’s signature campaign promise for the last seven years. Like the new Senate draft, it leaves much of the structure of Obamacare intact. After an extended arm-twisting session, the legislation cleared the House on a vote of 217 to 213. All of the 193 Democrats who showed up to vote, voted “no.” There were 20 Republicans voting "no."
Dr. David Hogberg, author of Medicare’s Victims: How the U.S. Government’s Largest Health Care Program Harms Patients and Impairs Physicians, said Trump is undermining his own health care agenda.
Trump reportedly called the House bill “mean” during a White House lunch June 13 with GOP lawmakers and said the Senate should "add more money" to the bill. With the “mean” comment the president “was almost certainly referring to the provision in that measure that lets insurers charge higher premiums to those with preexisting conditions” in certain circumstances, Hogberg says.
Republican moderates and Trump need to ask themselves two questions. First, what is meaner: Letting states waive the preexisting condition protection, or allowing insurance markets to fail so that millions of people have no access to insurance? Second, how do they think it will play out politically when the blame for the exchanges’ implosion shifts from the Democrats to the Republicans?
The “mean” comment also ratcheted up the pressure on Senate Republicans to retain Obamacare’s preexisting conditions provisions, Hogberg adds.
And now Democrats are using Trump’s remark against Republicans and the Senate draft.
"If that bill was mean, this one is downright diabolical," said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). "It is diabolical because it absolutely eviscerates Medicaid, ripping away health care from millions of Americans with cuts that are even deeper than the House version."
Of course, Merkley didn’t explain that Republican senators have floated what Christopher Jacobs of Juniper Research Group calls “a lengthy phase-out of the enhanced federal match associated with Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.” In other words, this is government accounting tomfoolery. These so-called cuts to Medicaid extend years into the future and there is no guarantee a future president and Congress will follow through on them.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) relished sticking it to Republicans at a presser yesterday. “The president said the House bill was mean. The Senate bill may be meaner.”
Ever the demagogue, former President Obama shrieks that “[d]iscrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again.”
Actually, “discrimination” isn’t quite the right word. “Sound underwriting practices” is a more accurate description. Insurance isn’t really insurance if insurers aren’t allowed to price policies according to risk, that is, if they are forced to take customers who are already sick. And it is the current prohibition against refusing to cover someone with preexisting conditions that is at the heart of the so-called Obamacare death spiral. If anyone suffering from any ailment has the legal right to demand insurance coverage no matter sick they may already be, costs cannot be contained. Period.
Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.
This is the typically manipulative leftist claptrap we suffered through during the Obama regime: Freedom of choice is bad, markets are unfair and evil, and everyone should trust the government.
Meanwhile, the White House is sending out mixed messages on the new Senate draft.
When asked where Trump stood on the matter at a White House news briefing yesterday, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders demurred, suggesting the measure was a work in progress.
“He wants to bring the stakeholders to the table, have those conversations and we’ll get back to you,” she said. “We’ve been talking about reforming health care for a number of years; I don’t think it’s moving too fast.”
Trump had told reporters earlier in the day that the Senate draft was "going to be very good."
"Obamacare is dead, and we're putting a plan out today that is going to be negotiated," Trump said.
By evening Trump had tweeted support for the draft bill but acknowledged it needs to be modified: “I am very supportive of the Senate #HealthcareBill. Look forward to making it really special! Remember, ObamaCare is dead."
The ball is now in the court of conservative lawmakers on Capitol Hill.