The Republicans Don’t Care About Your Access to Health Care

One way to determine if a political party cares about people like you is to see if they have any interest in whether you have access to quality, affordable health care. If they’re indifferent to whether you live or die, that’s a good indicator that they’re not on your side. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a member of the Republican Party, and he could not be more clear that he has no interest in health care as a topic other than for its potential as a political weapon against the Democrats.

This week began with news that Trump’s Justice Department had filed a legal brief arguing that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. But if anyone thought that meant that twenty million or more people were newly at risk of losing coverage, Trump was ready at the Twitter machine to reassure them.

The rest of the week has been made up of congressional Republicans scurrying around trying to figure out how they’re supposed to fulfill the promise that they’ll become “The Party of Healthcare” after a judge presumably strikes down all the provisions in Obamacare that make it work.

When the Republicans were in the majority in both houses of Congress, they tried to keep their promise to repeal Obamacare without eliminating coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, but they could not accomplish that task because it’s basically impossible. They’re still unwilling to threaten coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, which means that they have a new problem. They now need Trump to lose in court or they’ll have to find a way to mandate that healthy people buy health insurance so that insurance companies can hope to afford to cover people with cancer, diabetes, and other unprofitable health conditions.

Mitch McConnell wants absolutely no part of this.

Mitch McConnell has no intention of leading President Donald Trump’s campaign to transform the GOP into the “party of health care.”

“I look forward to seeing what the president is proposing and what he can work out with the speaker,” McConnell said in a brief interview Thursday, adding, “I am focusing on stopping the ‘Democrats’ Medicare for none’ scheme.”

…Now in divided government, with the Senate majority up for grabs next year and McConnell himself running for reelection, another divisive debate over health care is the last thing McConnell needs. But that’s exactly where Trump is taking Republicans after his administration endorsed a wholesale obliteration of the law in the courts earlier this week.

So the Kentucky Republican and his members are putting the onus on the president to figure out the next steps.

There are some senators who have shown some willingness to take up the president’s challenge and work on a Republican health care bill (I’ve seen Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and John Barrasso of Wyoming mentioned) but McConnell is not going to task his committee chairs with doing any serious work on this between now and next November. He’ll sit back and let the White House work out something with Nancy Pelosi.

While the GOP leader has endorsed efforts to protect pre-existing conditions, McConnell told his caucus on Wednesday he will stick to a message of asking the administration for a plan and focusing on making Democratic measures unpopular, according to attendees.

The Republicans have already proven that they have no answers on health care. They love scaring people who have health coverage that they like by telling them that the Democrats will cause them to lose it or have to pay substantially more for less quality and longer waits. What they aren’t willing to do is to go back to the pre-Obamacare days when people could not buy health coverage at any price because they had a pre-existing conditions. And since they won’t contemplate taking that step, they’re now appalled that Trump has taken it by trying to get the law thrown off the books by the courts.

If McConnell actually cared about your health care, he wouldn’t have been satisfied with the old status quo and he wouldn’t be furious that the president wants him to legislate a new comprehensive national scheme. He doesn’t want to improve access, lower cost, or do anything other than talk about the Democrats’ radical proposals. And he’s not alone:

“The president’s entitled to his opinions, so I don’t begrudge him that,” [Senate Majority Whip, John] Cornyn said. “But what they need to do now is tell us what their plans are.”

In fact, the broader Republican establishment is just baffled by the idea that the president would take away millions of people’s access to health care and then ask them to fix the problem.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday found 45 percent of Americans opposing Medicare for All and 43 percent backing the proposal.

“That’s the rhetoric that really scares a lot of voters – I would think a lot of independent voters, a lot of suburban voters, voters that Dems did really well with last time,” Doug Heye, a Republican strategist, said.

While Republicans had hoped to seize on public unease with such sweeping reforms, Heye said that the Trump administration’s legal shift on the ACA could complicate that effort by putting the onus on Republicans to stake out their own position on health care.

“It’s why the announcement from the White House was surprising,” said Heye, who also served as an aide to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). “If your opponent is running off a cliff, it’s best to stay out of their way.”

But this all stems for the decision to demonize the Affordable Care Act when it was a middle course, moderate reform plan designed to win bipartisan support and avoid the more radical changes some Democrats are now pushing on the campaign trail. Trump is trying to keep his promise to kill Obamacare and, it turns out, the Republicans are apoplectic about it.

The Republican Party does not care about you or your health or the health of your loved ones. They never have, and I doubt they ever will.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.