House Passes Health Care Reform, Trump Says Single-Payer is ‘Better’
On Thursday afternoon Republicans in the House of Representatives narrowly passed the American Healthcare Act, the culmination of seven years of campaign promises and symbolic votes to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature piece of legislation.
An analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office of an earlier version of the bill found that it would result in 14 million more uninsured Americans by 2018, 24 million by 2026, and a deficit reduction of a few hundred billion dollars over the next decade.
Last time Republicans tried to pass the bill they failed, partially because the CBO score became a sticking point for opponents who claimed its primary effects would be reducing coverage, raising premiums, and substantially cutting taxes for the top 1% of income-earners.
This time around, Speaker Paul Ryan moved quickly and with less fanfare — the vote was held before a CBO score for the new bill was released.
One GOP Congressman’s comments were especially reflective of how the tables have turned in D.C., with Rep. Thomas Garrett (R-VA) saying, “I don’t think any individual has read the whole bill,” and “That’s why we have staff.”
In 2009, when some Congressional Democrats made similar remarks about the Affordable Care Act, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said “I don’t think we should pass bills that we haven’t read that we don’t know what they cost.”
Cue the succession of articles observing that this could be the final nail in the coffin of Republicans’ majority in the House:
NPR’s “Health Care Vote Could Threaten Republican House Majority”, FiveThirtyEight’s “The Health Care Bill Could Be A Job-Killer For GOP Incumbents”, The Hill’s “Vote to repeal ObamaCare spells doom for House Republicans”, The Atlantic’s “What the GOP’s Health-Care Gamble Means for 2018”, The Wall Street Journal’s “House Bill Makes Health Care a Swing Factor for Midterms”, and even an op-ed in Fox “House vote to repeal ObamaCare gives Democrats an incredible opportunity” all make the same point — it’s likely Republicans just cost themselves their majority in the House.
The American Healthcare Act will now head to the Senate, where it will have to be heavily amended if it has any chance of passing. Of course, as we all learned from Schoolhouse Rock, both chambers need to sign the same bill so it would then have to be sent back to the House.
This means that Republicans in Congress had even less to gain by voting for this bill than it initially appeared — making it all the more curious why they would choose to “glow in the dark” over a bill that will never become law, as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pointed out.
With the final margin of the vote coming down to just a handful of legislators, Democratic candidates in 2018 will be able to more effectively claim that each of their opponents was instrumental in passing the bill.
Although the AHCA only received 217 Republican votes, the GOP currently holds 247 House seats — their largest majority since the 71st Congress of 1929–1931.
House Democrats taunted their colleagues as the votes were counted and the bill passed, singing “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye” loud enough that it could be heard on CSPAN.
The reason that so many Republicans opted to “walk the plank”, as Pelosi put it, is actually quite simple. In many ways, our corrupt campaign finance system explains Republican legislators’ odd behavior.
The drama over this vote on a bill that will never become law makes more sense in light of the fact that each Representative was likely being incessantly lobbied by the HMOs, insurance providers, and other interests who have a stake in reforming 17.8% of the U.S. economy.
Considering the investments the industry has made, it’s not unlikely that some of those Representatives felt more of an obligation to their lobbyists than their constituents, and it’s also possible that some were more concerned about securing a future lobbying gig than another term in Congress.
Case-in-point: Blue Cross/Blue Shield, who has led the pack so far for the healthcare industry in 2017 lobbying expenses, currently employs three former members of Congress as lobbyists.
Schoolhouse Rock should update their song to include lobbyists in the legislative process.
Although many Democrats would have you believe that Republicans are a bunch of hyper-ideological, sociopathic half-wits with terrible political instincts who want to take healthcare away from people, in reality they’re just greedy.
Pelosi isn’t actually missing anything either, she acts like she can’t fathom why Republicans are so stupid because she’s on Blue Shield’s payroll as well.
Democrats may have been singing “goodbye” to their Republican colleagues, but they know that some of them will be back — making much more money.
Meanwhile, President Trump received a mixed reception as he returned to New York Thursday for the first time since taking office to meet with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The two leaders appear to have moved on from a January phone call that Trump described as “testy”.
During a joint press conference with Turnbull on the evening of the House vote to pass the American Healthcare Act, Trump made headlines with a comment about single-payer.
Asked about the House vote earlier in the day, Trump prefaced the remark with his trademark way of warning that he’s going off script and is about to make news, saying “I shouldn’t say this.”
He then turned to Turnbull, calling him “a great gentleman and my friend from Australia”, lamented America’s “failing healthcare,” and conceded, “you have better health care than we do.”
Australia has universal, single-payer healthcare. In fact, 32 out of 33 developed countries in the world have universal healthcare — the U.S. is the only exception.
One can’t help but wonder what must have gone through Paul Ryan’s head when he heard Trump’s comment.
As I’ve written before, embracing single-payer healthcare could be key to achieving the popularity President Trump craves.
If the 2018 midterm does end up obliterating the Republican majority in the House, there’s certainly nothing stopping him from declaring the swamp drained and endorsing Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) single-payer bill.