If there was any doubt, it evaporated Thursday: President Donald Trump and his Republican allies in the House of Representatives want to make America sick again.
Led by Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and whipped into line by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, House Republicans shredded the Affordable Care Act by passing a health-care bill that is bad for America – and the San Joaquin Valley, in particular.
Though the American Health Care Act must go through the Senate – where Democrats might be able to modify some of the worst provisions – what Trump and Ryan have wrought will harm millions of people, drive millions back into emergency rooms for treatment and deprive children, the already-sick, the elderly and even veterans of affordable health insurance.
Twenty principled Republicans voted against the “Trumpcare” legislation. However, none of those who rose in opposition to safeguard their constituents was from the Valley.
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That was shocking to us. Access to affordable health care has always been a challenge for the working poor and even middle-class Valley residents. That longstanding hurdle finally was lowered when President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law and California leaders – unlike those in many other states – fully embraced its provisions.
Supporters of Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, have spent millions of dollars on campaign ads portraying him as a friend of working men and women, and veterans. But with his vote Thursday, he revealed his true colors: just another foot solider in the Trump offensive to reward the rich and punish everyone else.
Valadao did co-sponsor the Upton Amendment. It added $8 billion over five years to $130 billion in the bill to fund high-risk pools and subsidize pre-existing conditions in states that seek waivers under the AHCA. That sounds like a lot. But it’s not when you consider that 130 million Americans have pre-existing conditions.
According to the left-leaning Center for American Progress, people with pre-existing conditions can now expect shockingly high surcharges on their insurance premiums if the bill passes the Senate. A few examples: diabetes, $5,510; bipolar disorder, $8,370; breast cancer, $28,230; and lung cancer, $71,880.
The Center for American Progress also calculated the number of Americans with pre-existing conditions by congressional district: In Valadao’s district, it is 291,100, including 52,600 children. For Rep. Devin Nunes’ district, it is 298,800, including 46,700 children. For McCarthy’s district, it is 304,900, including 49,500 children. And for Rep. Tom McClintock’s district, it is 296,100, including 34,700 children.
When you comprehend the magnitude of the misery that would be inflicted on Americans if the AHCA is signed into law, then you understand why Ryan built long fuses into his bill – meaning the worst impacts won’t be felt until after he’s been re-elected in 2018.
But by 2018, insurance rates will be 15 percent higher, says the Congressional Budget Office. By 2020, they’ll be up 20 to 25 percent. They could begin to inch back down by 2027, but don’t count on it.
A study by the Urban Institute showed the number of uninsured veterans dropped 42 percent under Obamacare. The only states in which veterans’ health didn’t improve were those that refused Medicaid expansion – states now the model for Trumpcare.
The Republicans know 24 million people will eventually lose health-care insurance. They say most of those are young and healthy people who shouldn’t be forced to buy insurance. But others say 14 million are low-income, blue-collar workers; many with families.
What happens when those healthy, young, uninsured people get sick or suffer an accident? They’ll head to the emergency rooms, to join veterans and those with pre-existing conditions in the waiting lines.
The list of things wrong with the ACHA does not end there. The bill also gives employer-based health plans the freedom to eliminate essential benefits like maternity care, mental health coverage and prescription drug coverage.
In a statement released to the media, Valadao said, “The American Health Care Act will stabilize our health care system, ensuring our community has access to high quality, affordable health care.”
Nunes’ office also released a statement: “The House of Representatives took a big step today toward abolishing the failing Obamacare program and replacing it with a system that provides much better care at lower prices.”
Don’t believe either one of them. What they backed Thursday was legislation that provides $600 billion in tax cuts for the rich, deprives 24 million Americans of health insurance and raises health insurance premiums.