Health Care & the Political Roundup: American Politics in June
I can’t believe I’m writing this, but June was actually less crazy than May. With this brief (and likely short-lived) pause in the madness, I am going to take the opportunity to focus this month’s political roundup solely on the health care fiasco. Thanks to protesting, phone calls, and other backlash, the vote on the GOP’s health care bill has been postponed until after the July 4th recess. But this does not mean that we can slow down our efforts to prevent the GOP from fast-tracking their terrible bill through the Senate just after everyone has been given enough time to forget about it. Once again, we can’t afford to take a break, no matter how tedious the fight may seem.
Plenty of the legislative and political processes that take place in Washington happen behind closed doors, but when the entirety of a health care bill is created in secret, it does not go unnoticed. What Mitch McConnell (the Senate Majority leader) and his 13 male GOP friends have learned the hard way these past few days is that writing a bill which affects literally every single American citizen without proper hearings and accountability will likely lead to those citizens calling their representatives non-stop and threatening to unseat them in the next election. It’s a pity, really, that the GOP does not seem to understand the basics of governance: that they are elected by the people to act as representatives of the people. Transparency in government is essential to a functioning democracy because it gives people the power to hold their elected officials accountable for their actions. McConnell and the GOP were likely trying to avoid being held accountable for theirs, but that didn’t seem to work out too well.
For the American Health Care Act (or Wealthcare, as it will henceforth be referred to) to pass, McConnell needed 50 Republican senators to vote yes, and he could only afford to lose two Republican votes. But before the vote could even be called, several Senators voiced their concerns over the loss of coverage that would result from the bill and said that they couldn’t, in good conscience, vote for it. Senators Rob Portman of Ohio, Susan Collins of Maine, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia are three such Senators opposed to the bill for one particular reason: its slashing of Medicaid funding, which protects millions of Americans on a daily basis and provides basic health care services to the poorest among us. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its score of the bill (which the New York Times has succinctly summarized here), demonstrating that while the national deficit would indeed be cut by $321 billion over ten years, this is achieved only by largely defunding Medicaid. Especially in Ohio and West Virginia, two states devastated by the opioid epidemic, Medicaid is essential to the fight against the drug crisis as it provides rehabilitation and other forms of treatment to those otherwise unable to afford proper care.
I have never claimed (nor will I now claim) to be an expert on the ins and outs of health care, try as I may, but I do know this: differences in how to best provide health care to people is what we should be arguing over. The fact that every human being deserves health care – not access to healthcare – is not something we can argue about. This is the fundamental divide between Democrats and Republicans right now. In this Huffington Post article, Kayla Chadwick illustrates so clearly what I have been struggling to properly express myself: “I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care about other people.” I don’t know how to explain to you that slashing Medicaid so that tax cuts for the top one percent can be introduced is wrong. “Poverty,” Chadwick writes, “should not be a death sentence in the richest country in the world.” We can argue all day and night about the mechanisms of providing health care to people and the most financially viable way to do it, but the way this bill threatens the health care of 22 million people who have no voice, no platform, and no social capital to fight for themselves is absolutely disgraceful.
We should continue to fight this bill until it dies a horrible death simply because we care, as human beings, about other human beings. We can begin to unlock the rusted cycles of poverty in which so many people are trapped by providing a basic foundational health care system. There is nothing dramatic about saying that people would die as a result of this legislation – only truth. People will continue to shoot heroin no matter how many times you post on Facebook about how irresponsible drug use is. People will continue to get cancer no matter how little money they have. People will be hit by cars, develop diabetes, have complications during childbirth, and grow old. Accepting our fragility and mortality is never easy, but we can make it a smaller pill to swallow by preventing the cruel and immoral Wealthcare bill from ever being passed.
If you’re wondering how you can help prevent this bill from passing, here’s a short list:
- Post on social media about it. Raising awareness is something anyone can do as long as they have a basic internet connection. Talk about your own experiences with health care, post links to factual articles, and engage in conversation with people.
- Call your senator and ask them to reaffirm their opposition to the bill and to submit amendments to it.
- Call the Senate Finance Office at (202) 224-4515 and ask for a public hearing of the bill.
- Don’t forget that it is happening. While the July 4th recess was originally McConnell’s expiration date, he has the potential to use it as a weapon. Public outrage has a notoriously short fuse, and we can’t afford to sit back and be distracted by whatever catastrophe Trump lights in the coming days.