The July 29 defeat of the latest GOP Affordable Care Act (ACA) replacement bill brought resounding cheers from advocates for responsible health care reform. An Arizona Daily Star headline “GOP loss affirms Americans want health-care safety net” perfectly summed up my own sentiment. Heroically, Arizona’s senior senator, John McCain, traveled to Washington days after his diagnosis of brain cancer and cast the deciding vote to defeat the ill-conceived proposal.
Significantly, as citizens began to grasp the consequences of our administration’s ill-advised efforts to rush through a “repeal and replace” bill that in its initial form would have denied coverage to an estimated 24 million Americans, including 14 million recently enrolled Medicaid recipients, it became increasingly evident that the vast majority of voters opposed this legislation. Recent polls indicate that 70-80 percent of Americans support cornerstones of the Affordable Care Act, including incentivizing states to expand Medicaid while concurrently assisting low- and moderate-income people in obtaining affordable health coverage, and prohibiting insurers from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
Immediately following the collapse of the latest GOP onslaught on the Affordable Care Act, the Tweeter-in-Chief reiterated his threats to “let Obamacare implode.”
And indeed he has the necessary tools at his disposal. Trump’s aides report he is prepared to end required subsidies to insurers under the ACA. These subsidies were initiated by President Obama to help low-income consumers cover out-of-pocket costs associated with the heavy deductibles and co-pays that characterize many available plans. Incredibly, our president is willing to stoop to going against the spirit and intent of the law in order to sabotage this landmark legislation!
Likewise, Trump could refuse to enforce the law’s individual mandate to purchase coverage. Without the mandate, many if not most healthy people will refrain from buying insurance until they become seriously ill. That would make Trump’s oft-touted Obamacare death spiral a self-fulfilling prophecy, through accelerating the insurance pools’ gravitation toward including only the least-healthy and most-expensive patients.
If that weren’t bad enough, two days following the defeat of the Senate bill Trump stepped up his efforts to pass legislation — any legislation — to dismantle Obamacare. He even went so far as to suggest that senators cancel their summer break to pass repeal and replace legislation.
Clearly our president lacks both the integrity and the desire to inspire a truly bipartisan effort to bring together enlightened representatives from both parties to craft a health care reform package that truly responds to the needs of all Americans.
This harsh reality is clearly driven home by a July 20 AP article describing the GOP-dominated House Budget Committee’s latest budget proposal blueprint. The proposal boosts the military budget to $786 billion – an astronomical increase over our current defense allocation. Coupled with a proposed tax code overhaul to reward the rich with even greater tax cuts, the budget blueprint intends to cut trillions of dollars from expenditures for health and human services over the next decade. These draconian cuts include slashing Medicare by $500 billion and stripping $1.5 trillion away from Medicaid and ACA provisions, along with sweeping cuts to such programs as food stamps and tax credits for the working poor. Clearly the priorities of this administration relegate meaningful health care reform to the bottom of the heap.
In her hard-hitting Philadelphia Inquirer editorial on August 1, Trudy Rubin quotes McCain as informing his fellow legislators that: “We are an important check on the powers of the executive…We are not the president’s subordinates. We are his equal!” Indeed we need legions of legislators in both houses with the guts to stand up to our arrogant, self-obsessed leader and forcefully call the shots as they see them! To fulfill our citizens’ desire for true health care reform that benefits all people, we need a fresh bipartisan and inclusive approach that meaningfully draws upon input from doctors and other health care providers, together with patients and their families. We also need far-sighted policymakers who see beyond the limitations inherent in our highly profit-
dominated sickness care system — with a vision of evolving a true health care system that empowers everyone to take charge of their health!
— Dr. John Newport is an author and socio-political commentator based in Tucson. He is a former senior health care policy analyst at the UCLA School of Public Health and author of “The Tucson Tragedy: Lessons from the Senseless Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords.”
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.