Reprinted from fair.org
Margarida Jorge: "They're using ACA repeal as a political vehicle to really express their bigger vision and ideology about healthcare, which is that people should just be on their own, and that the government shouldn't have any responsibility for making sure that people have adequate coverage."
Janine Jackson:The US healthcare conversation has come to an odd pass. We have an elected representative who maintains that, because you can go to an emergency room if you're dying, it's unreasonable to talk about insurance as a life or death issue. At the same time, there are those who think, in part because of the outrage around the widely reviled legislation the House just passed, that there might be a better opening for a move to a single-payer or Medicare-for-all system, as indeed some states seem to be doing.
Tea Party rally to stop the 2010 health care reform bill
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How do we hold on to a vision for a truly humane healthcare system, while at the same time fighting just to hang on in the face of efforts to turn the country into something out of Dickens? Margarida Jorge is co-executive director of Health Care for America Now and Health Care for America Now Education Fund. She joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome to CounterSpin, Margarida Jorge.
Margarida Jorge: Thanks for having me.
JJ: Well, "Nobody dies because they don't have access to healthcare," said Raul Labrador of Idaho. That's a pretty amazing statement, don't you think?
JJ: Of course, it was met with derision, as well as factually debunked. But it does show, among other things, how differently healthcare can be experienced by differently situated people, which in a way makes the reporting very important in explaining the potential impacts of things. Now, I saw plenty of concerns raised about this Republican legislation--around pre-existing conditions, for example--but I wonder, what did you make of media coverage of this process? Is there more that might have been done?
MJ: Well, there's a lot in the bill, and there were two particular pieces that Health Care for America Now and our partners worked quite a bit on that I thought didn't get as much coverage as I would have liked, given that the impact of those things would have been tremendous. One of those things is the proposal in the Republican bill, not just to roll back Medicaid expansion, which is the way that a lot of people got coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but actually the proposal to go after traditional Medicaid, the Medicaid that's been around for 50 years, that we all know and like, that takes care of seniors, that provides services to people with disabilities, that insures up to half the kids in the country, that pays for most births in most states, that provides family planning services.
Rep. Raul Labrador (R.-Idaho): "Nobody dies because they don't have access to healthcare." (cc photo: Gage Skidmore)
So the proposal to radically restructure that program through caps and block grants would really create devastation over time. And to get back to Representative Labrador's comment about folks not dying because they don't have healthcare, certainly many more people would die--they are the poorest people, seniors, women, children--if in fact the Republicans are successful in creating this restructure of Medicaid. So I was surprised that that didn't get much attention, especially because it would just have devastating consequences on state budgets as well.
And the other piece that I thought didn't get much attention was the tremendous redistribution of wealth in the legislation. Because, of course, the bill doesn't just take away coverage from 24 million people, it doesn't just roll back important provisions that protect people with pre-existing conditions and all those things, but the bill actually cuts almost a trillion dollars out of healthcare and then turns right around and gives over half of that back to wealthy people, insurance companies and prescription drug companies, which I think adds insult to injury, that not only are we taking away people's healthcare, not only are we endangering people's lives, not only are we making it difficult for even people who have coverage to get the kind of coverage that they need, if they have a pre-existing condition or they need something under the essential health benefits provision, but then at the same time, we are giving money back to the very insurance companies and prescription drug companies that gouged us in the first place.
JJ:It's pretty amazing, and I share your feeling that it wasn't stressed, exactly, in the coverage. And to your point about Medicaid--I mean, it really was presented, this Republican bill, as repealing Obamacare, you know, the long-awaited effort to dismantle the ACA. And you're making the point that it actually did much more than that, and so it speaks to the broader agenda.
MJ: They're going well beyond repealing the Affordable Care Act, or making a few tweaks here or there. Though that might not be obvious to everybody, because, of course, they did this through a very expedited process. No CBO score, not much analysis on the policy, and no hearings. But they did it on purpose, because they're using ACA repeal as a political vehicle to really express their bigger vision and ideology about healthcare, which is that people should just be on their own, and that the government shouldn't have any responsibility for making sure that people have adequate coverage, that seniors, children, people with disabilities, people that are going to be the most vulnerable, are provided with the healthcare that they need, even after a lifetime of work, or even if they happen to be born with a disability through no fault of their own.