Opinion

Stalled health care bill no surprise

From the Editorial Board

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., flanked by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., left, and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, right, following a closed-door strategy session at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 20, 2017.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., flanked by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., left, and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, right, following a closed-door strategy session at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 20, 2017. AP

No one should be shocked that the latest Senate Republican health care bill, informally known on social media as the Republican Insurance Plan, or R.I.P., can’t find enough Republicans to jump on board. (The vote has been delayed until after the July Fourth recess).

The bill was drafted by 13 Republican senators behind closed doors. No Democrats and no women were consulted.

It’s apparent the Republicans learned nothing from the failures of Obamacare, the biggest of which was that it was signed into law without a single Republican vote.

We wouldn’t expect the GOP elite to ask our two Democratic senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell to join their little cabal, but they could have tapped the shoulders of Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska or Susan Collins of Maine; these two Republicans are well-versed in health care bills and would have at least improved the optics.

But Collins and Murkowski have both expressed concerns over the bill’s provision to cut funding for Planned Parenthood. The bill doesn’t mention the organization by name, but says any group primarily engaged in family planning services, reproductive health, and providing abortions are barred from receiving federal dollars.

A spokesman at the Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho recently told The New York Times, “We basically have a pink army that we’re ready to deploy.”

But it will take more than a pink army to keep Planned Parenthood’s 600 health centers up and running. Planned Parenthood serves 2.4 million people a year, three-quarters of whom have incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

If women had been invited into the senate boys’ club, perhaps women would have fared better, perhaps states would not have been given the option to drop mandatory coverage for maternity care. The biggest beef against Obamacare has always been what Republicans call “pregnancy insurance.”

During a town-hall meeting, Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, said his goal was to “get rid of some of these crazy regulations that Obamacare puts on, such as a 62-year-old male having to have pregnancy insurance.”

A retired school teacher in Dubuque wrote Blum a letter using his own logic: “I ask, why I should pay for a bridge I don’t cross, a sidewalk I don’t walk on, a library book I don’t read?”

The Republicans never liked Obamacare’s individual mandate. As a workaround, their new bill calls for a six month lockout. People who go more than 63 days without insurance must wait six months before getting back into the insurance market.

Republicans have replaced the individual mandate with punishment. They are counting on fear to keep the young and healthy in the insurance market and sharing the risk, knowing that disasters and diseases don’t wait for eligibility periods to pass.

The GOP plan will also change Medicaid from an open-ended entitlement program to a per capita cap program with the intention of putting intense pressure on states like ours to reduce provider rates and cut benefits.

For the 600,000 Washington residents who gained coverage under the Obamacare Medicaid Expansion program, their days of being insured are at risk; same goes for nearly one-fifth of all Americans who rely on Medicaid, 1.7 million of whom are veterans.

America’s problem with healthcare didn’t begin with Obamacare. A massive restructuring of a broken system requires responsible compromise; it should require more than 51 votes, and it certainly should contain input from a group more diverse than 13 white males.

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