Article originally published in the Naples Daily News
By Robert Weiner and Ben Lasky
Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) threat to Senate Republicans that he will be forced to work with Democrats if Republicans can't agree on the new healthcare bill, is exactly what they should do. Republican Senator Ron Johnson (R-MI) and President Trump have begun to go in this direction, as well as moderate Senator Joe Mansion (D-WV). Working with Democrats is the only way the American Health Care Act (AHCA) will ever pass. If that's a threat, both sides should go for it!
Why not do what the Senate is famous for and deal with the issues that are problematic in healthcare that Democrats have admitted for some time? Just because there are problems with the bill is not a reason to blow it up. You don't buy a new car because the air conditioning doesn't work. Instead of calling it "repeal and replace," say "repair," and we can actually get something positive done.
Florida has the highest percentage of seniors in the U.S. This bill quintuples the cost to seniors and takes away the opportunity for grandma to be in a nursing home under Medicaid. It also takes money to fight opioid addictions, which does not get much attention, but is an issue for many seniors who are addicted to painkillers. These are issues that the bill must take care of.
The reason the system is collapsing is because Republicans in Congress have refused to do what Democrats did for George W. Bush's part D Medicare when there were fixes needed. Congress fixed them on a bipartisan basis. Now even Trump has says to money and "heart" into the bill.
There were 160 amendments that were adopted on tax breaks and other provisions that Democrats weren't prone to do that were put into Obamacare. President Obama had massive meetings at the White House bringing in the Republican leadership. There were 100 days of hearings. This time there were none. It was done totally in secret, and there was no involvement whatsoever from the Democratic party. So of course you're not going to get any Democratic support. That's why it wasn't quite as violent when Obamacare passed. When it did pass there weren't sit-ins by Republicans blocking the bill from passing. Democrats are furious because they were completely excluded. The bill was written in a few weeks by 12 men and zero women, let alone a group like Planned Parenthood.
Now senators get to go home on recess and face constituents, which is exactly what McConnell wanted to avoid. He wanted this process to be secret and quick. That's not possible anymore. Now you have disabled protesters laying down inside McConnell's D.C. office. There are mothers whose children will die if they don't receive cancer treatments. This bill would be a disaster. Did you know 49 percent of births in the U.S. are paid for through Medicaid? If you take away peoples' health insurance, you are taking away what is really important to them.
Senate Republicans have emphasized that the bill save $321 billion. Of course there's savings when you cut benefits and don't give the healthcare. That savings is a myth. It just means people not getting health insurance. So when you hear savings, think reduced benefits and reduced care.
There is room for compromise here. In addition to making sure the Medicaid expansion continues, subsidies get put in, fixing the exchanges, making sure that seniors don't pay five times as much and that opioid treatment is in, they could, as part of a compromise, take away the mandate and do everything else. It would satisfy the Republicans that this is still voluntary and market driven, but it would have all the benefits of Obamacare. That is one of the possible compromises if Republicans would be willing to sit at the table with Democrats. Howard Dean said years ago, when Obamacare was in the making, that the mandate is not something that is a killer provision of the bill that Democrats like to make it out to be.
Robert Weiner is a former spokesman for the Clinton and Bush White Houses and was Chief of Staff of the House Aging Committee under Rep. Claude Pepper (D-FL). Ben Lasky is a senior policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates and Solutions for Change.