The Senate yesterday released its version of Trumpcare – they hope to vote on it next week and some members of the House have already indicated that they’ll pass it “as is” without calling for reconciliation. If all goes according to plan, the idiot signing machine in the White House could have it on his desk by the end of next week. It is, needless to say, not just the truly bad piece of legislation that the secrecy surrounding its inception promised, but one with the potential to do real, actual, bodily harm to millions of Americans.
Those of us who hope to influence our senators to save us from this horror shouldn’t hope for too much. It does, although, go without saying that those of us in Missouri can count on our Democrat, Senator Claire McCaskill – an expectation that she has confirmed. But according to a whip count at The Hill, it seems that Senate GOP junior leadership figure, Senator Roy Blunt, is also living up to what were, admittedly, meagre expectations.
The Hill has Blunt leaning “yes” on the legislation, the “leaning” inferred from Blunt’s wiggle-room statement to the effect that he’s “still reviewing the bill.” Yeah. Sure. More likely waiting to see if potential public outcry causes the sky to fall and the earth to crumble beneath him, the only two events that would keep Blunt from kissing up to the senior GOP leadership.
Blunt’s intentions are clear when, according to The Hill, he states, despite not having yet “reviewed” the bill, that it “preserves access to care for people with pre-existing conditions, strengthens Medicaid and does not change Medicare, gives people more health insurance choices, and allows people to stay on their family health insurance plan until they are 26.”
And almost every part of that statement is pure BS. Almost. It is true that the Senate bill, like the House bill, preserves the Obamacare provision that allows those under 26 years old to stay on their parents healthcare. As for the the rest of his claims, perhaps we should take a closer look:
Blunt says that the Senate bill “preserves access to care for people with pre-existing conditions.” Well, no. The Senate bill allows states to define what “essential” services must be covered by insurance – potentially allowing states to strip out problematic illnesses. The reinstatement of lifetime and annual caps will also curtail treatment options for those with chronic, expensive illnesses such as cancer – and will, because of the way the law is written, affect those who get employer-based insurance as well as those in the individual market served by the Obamacare exchanges. Nobody’s safe when these guys get their hands on the legislative meat-cleaver.
Blunt says that the Senate bill “strengthens Medicaid.” Tricky, tricky. It’s true that Medicaid will probably cost less in the long run. That’s because it will serve millions fewer people. The Obamacare Medicaid expansion, responsible for giving more than 11 million people healthcare coverage, will begin to be rolled back in 2021 and be terminated by 2023. Traditional Medicaid will receive increasingly smaller and smaller amounts of federal funding. That means throwing large numbers of poor children, seniors in nursing homes, and the disabled, people who in large numbers now depend on Medicaid, out into the uninsured cold.
If the reason for denying health care to so many vulnerable Americans were to strengthen the program, the money that is saved would be plowed back into the Medicaid program. But guess what? Republicans are going to use the cuts to give those in the top brackets a great big tax cut. Roy Blunt, essentially, wants us to believe that when rich folks pay lower taxes, Medicaid is strengthened.
Blunt says that the Senate bill “does not change Medicare.” This must be why the AARP has already issued a statement denouncing the bill , declaring that, “the Senate bill also cuts funding for Medicare which weakens the programs ability to pay benefits and leaves the door wide open to benefit cuts and Medicare vouchers.” The AARP release also notes that the Senate bill institutes what it calls an “Age Tax, which would allow insurance companies to charge older Americans five times more for coverage than everyone else while reducing tax credits that help make insurance more affordable.”
Finally, Blunt says that the Senate bill “gives people more health insurance choices.” If by more choices Blunt means greater availability of poorer coverage at an higher price, he may be correct. But maybe not. Since the Senate bill, like the House bill before it, does away with mandates, on individuals as well as business with more than 50 employees, reduces insurer subsidies, reduces benchmark plans to an actuarial value of 58% as opposed to the 70% mandated by Obamacare, and increases deductibles and copays, it is likely to destabilize and weaken, if not outright destroy, the individual market. And – poof – there go your choices, even the bad choices Blunt thinks will do for the hoi polloi.
Slippery Senator Blunt: What I hear loud and clear is Senator Blunt saying that, sure, he’s going to vote with the leadership to take health care away from millions of Americans in order to give a big tax cut to his wealthy campaign donors. But he’s going to be very careful about how he talks about the legislation and what it does and doesn’t do. No flies on this guy – he’s read his Orwell. You’ll always be able to count on GOP aparatchiks like Roy Blunt to tell it like it isn’t.