Friday, July 20, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Prescription for pain

Only in the Potemkin Village meets Oz that is Washington would the prospect of 24 million people without health coverage be hailed as a landmark legislative success.

It seems former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was right after all. There really is such a thing as a death panel. It's called Congress.

This is probably the inevitable result when laws are cooked up by a speaker of the House of Representatives who has treated the post as if he is president of the Ayn Rand Society.

With great haste, the House is rushing forward with the American Health Care Act, which might otherwise be known as "Paul Ryan Shrugged," to replace the President Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act.

No hearings were conducted. You would think if you wanted to completely overhaul the nation's health care system, it might be a good idea to take testimony from the American Medical Association, hospital executives, insurance industry experts, medical device companies and others with expertise in the delivery of medical services.

Why bother?

Instead, Ryan and his fellow Republicans simply channeled their inner John Galt.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the act would result in 24 million people living without health insurance by 2026. As many as 14 million people would be at risk without health insurance by as early as next year.

The CBO predicted that the Republican House's "A Little Chicken Soup Can Do Wonders for Diabetes Act" would boost health insurance premiums between 15 and 20 percent in 2018-19 over what is currently projected under Obamacare.

It is certainly true the current Obamacare health system is deeply flawed. But at least it enabled approximately 12 million people to obtain coverage, while also extending Medicaid coverage to millions more Americans.

While health insurance premiums and deductibles imposed by the ACA were rightfully decried as too high, the costs to consumers under the Republican "You Really Didn't Need That Leg All That Much, Did You? Act" are even more draconian.

As the CBO noted, if you are an older American making $26,000 a year, even after receiving a tax credit to pay for health insurance, you would still be on the hook for as much as $14,600 a year to cover your premium costs. Memo to geezers: Fancy Feast isn't all that bad with enough ketchup.

Let's be fair. There are some Americans who will greatly benefit from the "Kidneys Are Highly Overrated Organs Act." The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation noted that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act would result in $129 billion in tax relief over the next decade for those with incomes of $1 million or more. And those earning between $200,000 and $999,999 a year would also enjoy an additional $274 billion in tax cuts over the next decade. That's pretty healthy.

It should be noted that the proposed House Republican "Take Two Placebos and Call Me in the Morning Act" is predicated on providing greater "access" to health care, which reminded me that as the television critic for the Chicago Sun-Times I once had "access" to Jacqueline Bisset for the better part of an afternoon in her Beverly Hills mansion. Not much came of it.

The House Republicans can talk about "access" to medical care all they want. But those unable to afford health insurance will still wind up using taxpayer-supported emergency rooms as their source of primary care.

Critics of Donald Trump constantly offer up the refrain: Give him a chance. That's fair enough.

Trump was elected largely based on his promise to replace Obamacare with something cheaper yet vastly better. And more "beautiful" too. As president, he ought to be highly motivated to fulfill his campaign pledge.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation/Cooperative Congressional Election Study determined that a House Republican American Health Care Act that provides less help and higher premiums to older and lower-income working class Americans, especially in rural areas, would adversely affect the very groups that voted for Trump. Oooops.

Or put another way, the Los Angeles Times has reported that four of the five states that receive the largest ACA subsidies — Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Georgia — all voted for Donald Trump.

You could forgive Trump if all this made him a bit peaked. But there's a cure. It's called leadership — if he wants to take his chance.

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