The Senate majority votes to repeal Obamacare at the expense of the American people
It’s time to get down to business. After over 50 rounds of Congressional blueballs, those rightwing bastards will finally get the chance to explode all over the country. That’s right, people. The final thrusts to repeal Obamacare have begun. And after Wednesday night’s marathon voting session we know what the GOP’s real problem is with Obamacare — frankly, it takes care of far too many Americans.
I’d gotten it all wrong. I thought that the biggest beef rightwing lawmakers had with the ACA was that it was one of the hallmark achievements of a progressive president whose legacy will last much longer than any conservative in the modern era (especially as the majority of today’s Republican contingent seems to be hellbent on rejecting even Reaganism for some mutated Uncle Sam dipped in a vat of radiation, spewing the virtues of obstructionist xenophobic apathy as American patriotism). I figured they’d put on some window dressing, change a couple small provisions (lower government subsidies, dismantle the marketplace, drop the mandatory aspect of it, freeze further entitlement expansion, rename the slightly changed program “The People’s Health Bill”) because I like to believe that our lawmakers aren’t as psychopathic as we believe they are. Hell, it was a Republican plan anyway, Obamacare just being a tweaked form of Massachusetts’ Romneycare. And President Obama even compromised to get the support of minority GOP lawmakers and the insurance companies that were calling foul through their Capitol Hill proxies, which ended up making the bill more complicated and taking it further away from the single-payer ambitions of American Democrats.
Sure, Paul Ryan presented a plan that would follow a successful push to repeal Obamacare, but his plan amounted to hoping the sick and non-rich would simply die quickly with the least burden on society. Nobody who’s committed his or her life to serving the American people could actually go for that.
But my faith in the general goodness of humanity, while certainly weakened over the last few months, might have sustained a mortal wound the night of Wednesday, January 11th and the early morning of Thursday, January 12th. Because that was the night when the senate finally issued a vote to repeal Obamacare that might actually stick given Herr Trump’s assumption of the iron throne in a week. And it wasn’t the final repeal vote that killed my faith. It was before the final vote, when Senate dems presented 177 amendments to the repeal, each one presenting the desire to keep a different aspect of the ACA. This technique, known as a vote-a-rama, is a bit of political circus aimed at showing what, exactly, some politicians believe in. The amendments all lost on mostly-party-line votes.
Out of that long list of amendments, there are a few that really get the stomach churning and the gag reflex quivering. Here are just some of the specific things that GOP Senators said they want to do:
Jeopardize veterans’ benefits
I never served in the military and now that I’m too old to enlist, I’m often torn about my decision not to. That said, I think all veterans should be guaranteed eternal health care for free, from battle wounds to civilian sicknesses to mental health. The GOP is known for being in love with funding the turning of people into warriors but supporting the change of the warriors back into people, that’s where they start mumbling about budgetary constraints. So when Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) presented an amendment that would make it tougher to restrict veterans’ access to VA benefits, it was rejected. Trump has said he wants to get rid of the VA and give veterans vouchers for private health care, though he’s also proposed some sort of plan where veterans can present their military ID to get health care anywhere that accepts Medicare while still keeping some semblance of the VA. But since there are no details about how they’ll fix the VA, at the best this vote means the future of health care for veterans is unknown. At worst, it means that the men and women who shed blood and sweat and tears to protect this nation may very well be left to die of their wounds.
Hurt women by rolling back reproductive benefits
Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) presented an amendment to continue Obamacare’s support of contraceptives and reproductive health. Having a baby in America is stupid expensive. Thousands of dollars in pre-natal care and during the delivery. Of course this will affect women disproportionately more than men because, let’s face it, us men have it easy when it comes to that whole “growing a human inside your body and then pushing it out an orifice the size of an tangerine” thing. And if there are fewer contraceptives and less contraceptive education, the men won’t be the ones to carry an “oops” baby. This was struck down, no doubt in part because one of the big excuses given as a reason to repeal Obamacare was to end the concept of contraception and reproductive aid.
Slice subsidies for rural citizens and hospitals
This may not seem like a big deal for a lot of Americans but it’s a HUGE deal for Trump supporters, many of whom are from communities that don’t have enough citizens with enough money to fund a top-shelf hospital out of pocket. Sens. Joe Manchin (D- WV), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Jon Tester (D-MT) presented an amendment to ensure low rates for rural insured (insurance is highest in less-populous states, with Wyoming rates about the highest in the country) and/or keep government funding for rural hospitals. It was rejected on a 51-47 procedural vote.
Kick the proles off Medicaid
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) proposed a bill to reject the rollback of Medicaid expansions. Just to explain, for the lowest-income Americans, our most vulnerable citizens, the rejection of Mendendez’s amendment means they have been given notice — start saving up money to pay out of pocket or get ready to die. And as an ancillary benefit, hospitals that help these people out of duty will likely be left footing this bill.
Kick 26-year-olds off their parents’ insurance
One popular clause of Obamacare allowed children up to 26 years old to stay on their parents’ insurance. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) wanted to keep this benefit, one that’s extremely important as today’s youngest millenials are entering one of the worst job markets for younger people in modern memory. But this lost.
Bring back the pre-existing conditions clause
The whole idea that insurance companies can reject people for pre-existing conditions is the most glaring bit of evidence that health insurance is the biggest con in the history of capitalism. A product that you pay for but when you go to use it, the very people you paid will do everything they can to deny it to you. Before the ACA’s provision rejecting pre-existing clauses, not only could a previous illness preclude a person from getting coverage, it could lead insurance companies to reject payment for treatments undertaken while supposedly insured if the company could prove it was related to a pre-existing condition. Basically, if you’re sick and actually need insurance, they have soulless suits who make millions figuring out ways not to pay because such payments cut into profits for these big evil swindles. The Democrats were a united front in pushing forward this amendment. It lost, of course.
Let the poor kids die
Talk about sins of the father. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) presented an amendment to allow children who are or would qualify to be covered by Medicare or CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) to continue receiving that coverage unabated, regardless what happens to entitlement programs for adults. It was rejected, showing that the sin of being born in a bad situation is enough to condemn a child to illness and, as sometimes follows, death. Such is the noble vision of the quest to repeal Obamacare.
Give those bastards in big pharma a win
Oh, big pharma. For every instance in which they point to the long journeys of R&D and FDA hurdles that lead to the discovery of a new wonder drug, there’s a story about pharmaceutical lobbyists funding lawmakers who will keep weed illegal because of its potential to cut into their pill-power or some weasel like Martin Shkreli gleefully upping the price of life-saving meds by 5000% to line his pockets at the expense of human wellness. One of the biggest issues with pharmaceutical companies is that they’ve been given unbridled power in America, with laws barring any competition from other nations where saving lives is considered an altruistic calling instead of a bulletproof industry. Hell, even Trump this week said that pharmaceutical companies are “getting away with murder.” But when Sens Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) proposed an amendment that would allow importation of drugs from Canada (which are strikingly cheaper) as a way to check American big pharma’s government-supported racketeering, it was of course struck down.
And now, the final countdown to repeal Obamacare
After this big vote-a-rama, there was a single vote to officially repeal Obamacare. The Dems offered some civil disobedience by explaining why they were voting against repeal (Chuck Schumer: “[For the] tens of millions who will see their costs go up … I vote no” or Tammy Baldwin: “I vote no because the people of Wisconsin did not send me here to take away their health care” or Brian Schatz from HI: “I vote no on behalf of people who need mental health care” (an amendment guaranteeing mental health care was also rejected) and most other Democratic Senators voted accordingly), each of which were met with gavel-banging and admonitions that debate was not allowed during the vote. But the slight GOP majority in the Senate was enough to vote to repeal.
Right now Trump is declaring that there will be a replacement offered simultaneously with repeal but that was never really the goal of GOP establishment. Because even after half a decade of rabble about replacing Obamacare, the elephants weren’t able to come up with a new plan that won’t result in a shrinking or loss of health coverage for millions of Americans. And while the well-covered Senators and Congresspeople might not care, they know that an insurance vacuum will be met very poorly in midterms, at least for the ones who survive.
It’s certainly a pickle. If they repeal and delay, they’ll have the Dems over a barrel during this vacuum so that any bill they pass down the line will carry some heavy pressure to pass (essentially they’ll hold the American people’s health hostage to hamstring their colleagues across the aisle who made the mistake of actually caring whether or not citizens get sick and die). But if a replacement is a condition of their repeal, well, that makes it a whole lot tougher. Because seriously, how can you do better than Obamacare without pissing off insurance, big pharma, and/or austerity tea baggers?
The truth is, we have no idea what tomorrow will bring for America. We’ve gone off the map and there be monsters here. Trump at times seems to favor taking care of the working class Americans to whom Paul Ryan and his ilk seem hellbent on denying coverage. He’s even said he might not repeal Obamacare, just change a few clauses, though he swings more erratically and dramatically than a bi-polar methhead.
Regardless, the message sent out from Senate republicans in this resounding vote to repeal Obamacare is loud and clear:
The interests of multi-millionaire insurance execs and greedy pharmaceutical scumbags are more important than the interests of average US citizens, and the interests of the wealthy and healthy few are more important than those of the sick and working class many.
If these solons have their way, millions of Americans will either lose or receive substandard health care, just so a few people making twenty times more a year than their fellow citizens pay a couple thousand less a year in premiums and rates.
Welcome to 2017, the year when American callousness will finally get its day in the sun.