The optics told it all. A group of old, white men flanked a 70-year old narcissistic United States president, all beating their rapidly atrophying chests, and triumphantly preening themselves before television cameras to herald the return of "death panels." Well not really and not in the way they are telling it. But as was the case in 2009, when Republicans ratcheted up extreme and morbid hatred for President Obama and his Affordable Care Act (ACA), it was a Republican -- Sarah Palin -- who projected the lie and fantasy of insurance industry panels taking away life-saving care from ordinary Americans. Now, almost a decade later, its House Republicans that has started the process to enact that chilling and macabre reality.
Back then, Sarah Palin went on a now infamous rant after she and John McCain lost the presidential election. She fumed that the bill that would become known as Obamacare, would lead to medical rationing and life-and-death decisions by faceless bureaucrats about who got coverage and who would not. Palin raged on that seniors and those with disabilities "will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care."
Today, a tone deaf, out of touch, Republican Congress, is ignoring the high octave angry objections and millions of complaints of ordinary working class Americans -- Democrats AND Republicans alike -- that have called the bill deeply flawed and badly crafted. But hatred for Barack Obama is so intense and has so corrupted Republican thinking that President Trump has spent almost of his 100 days in office reversing and undoing Obama-era executive orders in a silly attempt to erase his historical impact and legacy, and pretend that "Obama was never president of the United States."
So this new "repeal and replace" bill is more about stoking the monumentally fragile and erratic ego of President Trump, and an attempt to "rescue and restore" Speaker Paul Ryan's plummeting prestige after a series of spectacular legislative blunders and failures. It's also an object lesson in Republican hypocrisy and cronyism. Today, Americans struggling with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses are expressing real fears that the House's latest handiwork will fast-track their demise, because the law that repeals Obamacare's ban on insurers rejecting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions will, in its present state, allow insurers to segregate people into pricier high-risk pools.
But wait, there's more. The length and breadth of Republican hypocrisy is even more telling when you consider the fact that the proposal for creating high-risk pools is pure conjecture and pie-in-the-sty fantasy. Many ordinary Americans have said that before Obamacare if you were over age 50 and had any medical issues -- which includes almost everyone in the United States - no insurer would sell you a policy. Now, if this new bill becomes law, despite what Republicans are publicly saying, insurance companies will be able to refuse coverage for pre-existing conditions or sell policies at exorbitant prices well out of the reach of poor, working, and middle class Americans. Welcome to Donald Trump's 21st century world.
So the scramble by House Republican leaders to plaster over their repeal of Obamacare's pre-existing conditions provision is just a scurrilous smoke screen intended to dupe and hoodwink people into believing somehow that this legislation would protect them from the ravages of insurance companies. Understand the following: Until the Affordable Care Act came along insurance companies, especially the large publicly owned ones, ran roughshod over sick people. Their rationale for existing is simply to make money for their shareholders -- not provide quality affordable health care. That should be government's job.
In fact, they see healthcare only important as a contributing factor to the health insurance market -- the more sick people the more money to make; but too sick to become an investment liability and a high-risk commodity. Health insurance is simply a commodity for sale in the healthcare market where sick people sustain and grow the industry. The Affordable Care Act was an economic windfall for PRIVATE INSURANCE companies because the ACA compelled and demanded ALL Americans be insured or pay a financial penalty. But this greedy and rapacious industry was not satisfied with that because discarding people with pre-existing conditions meant that they stood to make much more money.
So BOTH the ACA and the American Health Care Act (AHCA) focus on private insurance. While mouthing purport to bolster protections for America's most vulnerable and at-risk populations that include millions of seniors, the disabled and the poor, the truth is much more sinister. Yes, elections do have consequences, and America's collective stupidity and myopia now allows a Caucasian-centric Congress to pass legislation that ignores the pleas of the masses. No wonder their approval rating, like President Trump, is in the latrine.
For example, the latest reports and analyses from people and organizations that ran Medicaid and Medicare under President Obama, is that every congressional district will see tens of thousands of people losing coverage, with those remaining facing premium hikes of 15 to 20 percent, and deductible increases of 60 percent or more. Moreover, the Republicans' bill would cut $880 billion from the Medicaid program over the next decade, according to the most recent CBO (Congressional Budget Office https://www.cbo.gov ) estimate. This program provides health coverage for low-income Americans and helps pay for long-term care for people with disabilities and seniors.
So beyond the "win for Trump" and Ryan's last-minute bill sweetener to put up $8 billion towards the pre-existing condition problem, all of this is mere political magic and sleigh of hand. The bill is so unpopular that even Republican political strategists and consultants took to social media to express concerns and opposition to it. You see, they know that killing the ACA's pre-existing condition prohibition is not just a political death wish, but amounts to automatic and immediate life-threatening changes for older Americans, if and when it become law. In other words, Palin's macabre death panels are now real - they're in Ryan's and Trump's latest repeal bill. And many, many voters know it.
You think I'm making this up? Don't listen to me. Listen to Rick Wilson, a Republican pollster who did focus groups to create pro-Republican attack ads trashing Obamacare. He took to Twitter to blast his Republican friends in the House. Here's part of his angry rant:
"Now to salve Trump's ego over losing Trumpcare the first time, the House GOP is trying to pass a bill that let's states end that coverage" Set aside policy. Set aside the economics. Think about the politics of it. They're awful. They're idiotic. It's a vote that makes House" Members vote for a bill that the Senate will NEVER pass. A Senate source tells me they now have MAYBE 25 Rs (and shrinking).
"Trumpcare 2.0 is still too gutless for the Freedom Caucus and too heartless for the rest of the House. Bravo, boys. Bravo" Finding a way to reduce premiums deductibles instead of doing the ONE thing that voters f**king hate might be smart, but what do I know?"
I'll leave it at that. Wilson is far better at explaining his party's hypocrisy and stupidity than me. Please share! And don't forget to follow me at www.facebook.com/mdvroberts