McMorris Rodgers votes to slash health care to fund tax cuts for the rich
By DAVID GROVES
WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 5, 2017) — With a 217-213 vote on Thursday, House Republicans narrowly passed a controversial bill to approve hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts targeted to wealthy Americans, end Medicaid as we know it and slash its health assistance for lower income Americans by at least $880 billion over 10 years, allow insurance companies to impose lifetime and annual caps on medical coverage, and to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system in a way expected to cost more than 24 million Americans their health insurance coverage.
But the truth is, the Republicans who voted for this have no idea how many people will lose coverage and what it will cost. That’s because, in Thursday’s rush to pass the bill before leaving the nation’s capital for another congressional recess, Republicans pushed it through without a cost analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Many Republicans who voted “yes” later acknowledged that they hadn’t yet read the bill, an amended version of the legislation that failed in March.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the six-term Republican representing Spokane and the 5th Congressional District, was the only member of Washington’s delegation who voted “yes” on the American Health Care Act (AHCA), also known as Trumpcare. Every Democrat from Washington — and in fact, every Democrat in the entire House — voted against this bill, as did 20 Republicans, including Washington Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dave Reichert. Rep. Dan Newhouse did not vote because he was home attending to a family medical emergency.
“On behalf of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and our more than 450,000 members, I want to thank Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Dave Reichert, Adam Smith and Denny Heck for their principled votes against this horrible legislation,” said WSLC President Jeff Johnson. “Trumpcare is just the latest cynical lie by our president. Rather than making our health care ‘so much better,’ Trumpcare will strip health care coverage away from millions Americans, raise the cost of health care for seniors and millions of others, and remove protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions and price many of them out of the market, all while giving huge tax breaks to millionaires.”
Now the AHCA proceeds to the U.S. Senate where it faces an uncertain future with a more narrow Republican majority and some in the GOP expressing opposition or skepticism to the bill.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray predicted the AHCA “is headed to a dead-end here in the Senate.” She released this statement after the vote:
“I’m appalled by the action taken today in the House to jam Trumpcare through, regardless of the extraordinary harm it would do to patients and families. House Republicans just voted for an even worse version of the same Trumpcare bill that people across the country rejected only weeks ago. They voted to raise premiums and undo protections for people with pre-existing conditions, take coverage away from tens of millions of people, end Medicaid as we know it, cut off access to critical health care services at Planned Parenthood, and more — all while giving insurance companies and the very wealthy massive tax breaks. They may think they delivered a political win for President Trump today, but let’s be clear: Trumpcare is headed straight to a dead-end here in the Senate, because women and families nationwide are going to fight back harder than ever against this disastrous bill and Democrats are going to be standing with them every step of the way.”
In today’s Washington Post, McMorris Rodgers defended her vote for Trumpcare by arguing that the the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare) has been a disaster and “to stand by and do nothing would be irresponsible.”
For the past seven years, House Republicans have symbolically voted more than 50 times to repeal Obamacare, but failed to pass any legislation to improve it or fix any problems with the health insurance market that have arisen since its passage in 2010.
What McMorris Rodgers and the majority of her fellow Republicans finally did on Thursday is opposed by nearly every stakeholder organization in America’s health care system. Trumpcare is opposed by the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, American Lung Association, AARP, March of Dimes, and the National MS Society, among many others.
For Americans who get health insurance through their employers, Trumpcare would allow insurers once again to impose annual and lifetime caps on coverage, removing one of the key — and popular — consumer protections of Obamacare.
“It is no exaggeration to say that if it were to become law, this bill would kill significant numbers of Americans,” writes Paul Waldman, also in today’s Washington Post. “People who lose their Medicaid, don’t go to the doctor, and wind up finding out too late that they’re sick. People whose serious conditions put them up against lifetime limits or render them unable to afford what’s on offer in the high-risk pools, and are suddenly unable to get treatment.”
Waldman goes on to summarize of what Trumpcare does, based on the earlier version’s CBO analysis before it was amended to appease the most conservative Republicans in a way that will likely make these numbers even worse:
► Revokes the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, which provided no-cost health coverage to millions of low-income Americans.
► Turns Medicaid into a block grant, enabling states to kick otherwise-eligible people off their coverage and cut benefits if they so choose.
► Slashes Medicaid overall by $880 billion over 10 years.
► Removes the subsidies that the ACA provided to help middle-income people afford health insurance, replacing them with far more meager tax credits pegged not to people’s income but to their age. Poorer people would get less than they do now, while richer people would get more; even Bill Gates would get a tax credit.
► Allows insurers to charge dramatically higher premiums to older patients.
► Allows insurers to impose yearly and lifetime caps on coverage, which were outlawed by the ACA. This also, it was revealed today, may threaten the coverage of the majority of non-elderly Americans who get insurance through their employers.
► Allows states to seek waivers from the ACA’s requirement that insurance plans include essential benefits for things such as emergency services, hospitalization, mental health care, preventive care, maternity care, and substance abuse treatment.
► Provides hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for families making over $250,000 a year.
► Produces higher deductibles for patients.
► Allows states to try to waive the ACA’s requirement that insurers must charge people the same rates regardless of their medical history. This effectively eviscerates the ban on denials for pre-existing conditions, since insurers could charge you exorbitant premiums if you have a pre-existing condition, effectively denying you coverage.
► Shunts those with pre-existing conditions into high-risk pools, which are absolutely the worst way to cover those patients; experience with them on the state level proves that they wind up underfunded, charge enormous premiums, provide inadequate benefits and can’t cover the population they’re meant for. Multiple analyses have shown that the money the bill provides for high-risk pools is laughably inadequate, which will inevitably leave huge numbers of the most vulnerable Americans without the ability to get insurance.
► Brings back medical underwriting, meaning that just like in the bad old days, when you apply for insurance you’ll have to document every condition or ailment you’ve ever had.
“In short, the bill the House just passed is one of the most regressive pieces of legislation in living memory,” writes John Cassidy in the New Yorker. “When Republicans cut taxes on the rich and slash funding for programs aimed at the poor, they usually go to great lengths to argue that the two things are unconnected. But in this instance they have done away with the subterfuge. It’s reverse Robin Hood, in plain view.”
► A related story in today’s (Spokane) Spokesman-Review — Lisa Brown stepping down as WSU Spokane chancellor, says she’s considering congressional run — Lisa Brown is stepping down as chancellor of Washington State University’s Spokane campus and says she is again considering a run for Rep. Cathy McMorris’s seat in Congress. Brown has spent the past four years leading the Spokane campus and was instrumental in the formation of a medical school there. She previously served for 20 years in the Legislature, the last eight as the Democratic majority leader in the Senate.