Among the lies Donald Trump told on the campaign trail were those about what he would do about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. Those lies — or as Kellyanne Conway calls them “alternative facts” — continued well after he was elected into the first weeks of his new administration when he admitted he didn’t know what the hell he was doing when it came to healthcare.
We all remember his bluster during the campaign when he declared he will have a replacement for the ACA, which will give healthcare to everyone and it will be cheaper and better. On Jan. 15, the Washington Post reported, “President-elect Donald Trump said in a weekend interview that he is nearing completion of a plan to replace President Obama’s signature health-care law with the goal of “insurance for everybody,” while also vowing to force drug companies to negotiate directly with the government on prices in Medicare and Medicaid.” Then on Jan. 18 it was reported “Speaking with Axios, Trump applied a bit more restraint regarding the prospects of his plan’s promise to provide every American with health care. “Well, we want people taken care of … There will be nobody dying on the streets in a Trump administration.” Finally on Feb. 28, Trump said, “Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject,” and added, “nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Well Trump didn’t know but every American and individual involved in working on and passing the Affordable Care Act, and even Republicans who couldn’t figure out a replacement for it in the past six years, knew.
On March 7, Speaker of the House Paul ‘can’t add’ Ryan (R-Wisc.) and his Republican colleagues introduced their secret congressional plan to repeal and replace the ACA, which they call the American Healthcare Act. I have dubbed it the Trump ‘Doesn’t’ Care Act since the president has now said he fully supports it. This legislation takes money from the poor and gives it to the rich. It will mean less healthy children and families so the rich can get a cut in their taxes. The Congressional Budget Office estimate shows 14 million will lose their healthcare next year and 24 million by 2026. Even with this possibility, Tea Party Republicans are indicating they won’t be satisfied until every poor person loses their healthcare.
No one really debates the fact the Affordable Care Act needs tweaking. But the axe Republicans are taking to it if this bill were to pass as introduced, which based on comments by a number of Republican senators is highly unlikely, would be catastrophic to millions.
The parts of the bill causing the most concern for Republican senators are the changes to the Medicaid program. There are 31 states that expanded their Medicaid programs under the ACA, which extended new coverage to nearly 11 million low-income adults. If you end or cut that program drastically it would leave many of those millions of people without healthcare. That is a real problem for many GOP governors and the senators like Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) from red states.
The Ryan bill would “overhaul the whole program, which covers more than 70 million people, by sending states a fixed amount of money per enrollee, known as a per-capita cap.” GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski said, “her party must find a “fair and humane” way to treat those who gained coverage through Medicaid expansion.” She added, “In Alaska, we’ve got 27,000 people that are now eligible for coverage that didn’t have it before and really have no place else to turn and so I’m trying to figure out a way that treats these people in a fair and humane manner.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said, “the intra-party division over Medicaid was a “problem.” Hatch added, “The Democrats aren’t going to help us. So it is a problem.”
It can only be hoped with the release of this bill the millions of Americans who got their insurance through the ACA will finally realize electing a billionaire with no understanding of government or healthcare was a mistake. Voting for Trump, or not voting, and putting this bully who believes it is OK to lie your way to the top in business or government in the White House is turning out to be a disaster.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.