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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Leopards Roaming the Halls of Congress

I don’t care if you have no interest in politics. I don’t care if you’re a Republican or Democrat. Regardless, you’re a human being, and human beings get sick, and at some time in your life you will require expensive medical treatment and/or surgery and hospitalization. That’s a fact. It’s not an “alternative fact”, it’s not political propaganda, it’s common sense.

Today, the House of Representatives passed a bill that will dramatically increase the number of people without health insurance. Let me repeat that: millions of American citizens will lose their healthcare coverage because of what their congressmen did today. You could be one of them.

For those who do not lose their coverage, the bill passed by the House today will raise premium prices of individual plans over the next two years far more than any increases if Obamacare were to remain in effect. Let me rephrase that: Your premiums are going up much, much higher than they would have because of the bill these congressmen passed today.

These higher premiums will effectively price people with pre-existing conditions out of the marketplace, despite a last-minute amendment to “reduce the impact of the higher premiums”. Let me rephrase that too: If I reduce the amount of poison I plan to give you, I’m still poisoning you. The amendment would provide funding for only 5 percent of those currently insured with pre-existing conditions; the remaining 95 percent are screwed.

Oh, there’s one more part of legislation passed by the House today: it gives wealthy Americans-- the top 2 percent --  a $300 billion tax break. I guess billionaires need help paying for their healthcare more than you do. And it does this by taking $880 billion from Medicaid: you know, the program for poor people earning less than $11,880 a year.

The exact dollar figures of how much this new bill will cost taxpayers and how it will affect the federal budget, as well as estimates of coverage losses and premium effects will be calculated and announced by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) next week. Normally, a bill is not voted on in the House of Representatives until the CBO has had time to calculate this information and publicly release a “CBO score” so lawmakers and the public know the precise effects of legislation being voted on. But not this time. For political reasons, the bill was rushed to a vote on purpose before it could be analyzed and these facts could be made public.

As I said at the outset, I don’t want this to be a political rant because it affects every American citizen regardless of party affiliation. If you bleed, you will be affected. If you ever get sick or need a doctor, you will be affected. If you are ever a patient in a hospital from this day forward, you will be affected by what these politicians did today. So there are two more things you need to know. First, this was a Republican-sponsored bill, which all but 20 Republicans voted for. All 193 Democrats in the House voted against it. President Trump tweeted “If victorious, Republicans will be having a big press conference at the beautiful Rose Garden of the White House immediately after vote!” Yes, they are celebrating taking away health insurance from millions of people, raising everyone else’s insurance premiums, and giving a tax break to the wealthiest Americans.

The second thing you need to know, is that the House bill must now be voted on in the Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans but by a much narrower margin, and then signed into law by the president. As President Trump has already expressed his support for the bill, only the Senate can block it from becoming law. I suspect every Democratic senator will vote against it and that there will be enough rational Republican senators to vote with them to defeat this. But what you need to think about, as an American citizen who is likely to need a doctor or hospital at some point in your life, is why the people you elected to Congress ever tried to do this to you in the first place. Because you know leopards don’t change their spots; they’re going to try to do it again.

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