Heartless Health Care
(Mitch McConnell’s Dream)
Mitch McConnell is doing everything in his power to get a vote on what is now being called the “Better Care Reconciliation Act” (BCRA) before the Senate breaks for its July 4th recess. He may succeed (such is the power of the Majority Leader) and we would all be worse off for that. If you have been following the news you are aware that the Republican Party, in its obsession with doing away with the Affordable Card Act (“Obamacare”), does not seem to care very much about the poor, the elderly, the disabled --- or even the middle class. The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency which will release its “scoring” of the Senate Bill today, estimated that the House version of the bill (the “American Health Care Act” – AHCA – “TrumpCare”) would cut approximately $800 million from Medicaid over the next ten years, a staggering figure given that 20% of Americans rely on Medicaid in some form to help them survive day-to-day. This new BCRA bill says it’s not that bad because it will only start eviscerating Medicaid in 2020, with the worst cuts starting in 2023. This is like being told you have gangrene in your leg but we’re only going to cut the toes off for now and then we’ll work our way up to the ankle, knee, and hip over the next few months! You’re still going to cut the goddamn leg off, Doctor!
But that does not matter to the Republicans (and Trump) who, more than anything else, are determined to erase any trace of the United States ever having had a “liberal” African-American President in our history. Say what you will about it being political (and it surely is), the Republicans have still not recovered from being beaten twice by the Black man with the Arab name. Nothing seems to be a stronger driving force for Kentucky’s McConnell and the intellectually stunted resident of the White House. So, Obama’s “signature” achievement, the Affordable Care Act, must be “repealed and replaced.” And certainly the Affordable Care Act is flawed and not working in some parts of the country, but in an earlier political time Republicans and Democrats would have worked together to repair the flawed bill and improve it so the American people would receive the kind of health care the rest of the industrialized world (and Congress) has had for years.
Today’s Republican Party does not believe in compromise (remember the Merrick Garland nomination?) and will throw any piece of shit at the wall hoping it will stick and smear the Obama legacy. What we know about the current TrumpCare proposal is that it will strip away Medicaid that supports 1.4 million elderly people who live in nursing homes. Saturday, the lovely Carol Marie and I drove out to Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania to visit my mother, who will be 90 in August. She resides in an assisted living facility that is far from the “high end” of retirement/nursing homes but is an extremely comfortable, well kept, and decent place. We hadn’t visited in about a month and were shocked to see that, in one short month, an entire second floor had been framed out over the back of the building, creating (potentially) room for at least 20 or 30 new “residents.” The facility currently houses 40 people but, with so many of us living longer lives and the Baby Boomers living past their former expiration dates, the anticipated demand for assisted living is clearly increasing. I do not know how many of the current residents rely on Medicaid to help foot their bills there (I’m hoping that Mom’s Social Security and NY State Pension are all she needs to maintain her spot) but if you want a close look at who this McConnell farce of a bill would genuinely hurt, it’s right there in Stroudsburg, sitting in wheels chairs and moving along with their “walkers,” to get their group meals and sleep in their dormitories. This BCRA is heartless and cruel, designed to provide huge tax cuts for the wealthy and punish our most vulnerable because they need an “entitlement.”
And that’s really one of the items that’s at the heart of this whole issue. While at least one Republican Senator is balking at voting for the bill because of the Medicaid cuts (Dean Heller of Nevada), others are voicing their opposition because it doesn’t cut enough! Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, once Presidential hopefuls, say they can’t support the bill because it is “Obamacare Lite” as far as they are concerned, continuing to provide federal monies to provide health care for the disabled and elderly. If it were left up to this crew, of course, Federal spending (aside from Defense) would be totally disemboweled, leaving it up to the States to decide who gets how much support. This old “States Rights” notion of Republicanism (which solidly shifted to the party when Nixon cleverly appealed not only to his “Silent Majority” but also wooed the “Dixiecrats” to leave their party and become Republicans) is one that does not bode well for those who need health care most. If you want a preview as to what the BCRA would provide you only have to look at the Sam Brownback Kansas debacle to see what an untrammeled version of this kind of Republican “conservativism” results in.
You can bet Senator McConnell, who wields the power to grant money to Senators for their states (it looks like he’s already bought off Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, exempting that state from some of the draconian cuts and pumping some federal $$$ in), will be scurrying around the next few days, twisting arms and making promises to get this hideous bill passed --- much to the detriment of his own constituents, by the way. None of that matters to him, of course, just so long as he can erase “Obamacare.” What he may learn, however, is that Americans may not be as callous as he is and that old Joni Mitchell lyric will become a national rallying cry. “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone --- they paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.” The Senator from Kentucky may discover that his parking lot is going to cost him dearly in the 2018 midterm elections --- but, of course, he seems to be fine with that, just as long as we don’t remember that “the Black guy” was President.
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