After weeks of negotiations, last week House Republicans reached a compromise that they said could finally allow them to repeal and replace Obamacare. It involves letting states opt out of certain Obamacare provisions, which would allow insurers to once again charge people with preexisting conditions exorbitant fees.
Protecting people with preexisting conditions may be Obamcare’s most popular provision. A recent Kaiser poll found that even among the 26 percent of Americans who want Obamacare repealed, 38 percent changed their mind when told that would hurt people with preexisting conditions.
The original vote on the American Health Care Act in March was canceled, in part, because opponents of the bill — which only had the support of 17 percent of Americans — called their representatives and protested at town hall meetings. Now Republicans say they may vote this week on a version of the bill that’s even worse for the sick, the elderly, and the poor — yet there’s been less organized resistance to the latest health-care push.
Two possible reasons: It’s been hard to keep track of GOP efforts to revive Zombie Trumpcare, and Republicans aren’t advertising that the latest version would weaken protections for people with preexisting conditions. President Trump added to the confusion in recent days when he appeared to offer false information about the contents and status of the GOP health plan.
“I want it to be good for sick people. It’s not in its final form right now,” he told Bloomberg News on Monday. “It will be every bit as good on pre-existing conditions as Obamacare.”
In Trump’s defense, the Republican plan to get AHCA passed by making it crueler doesn’t make any sense — unless your real aim is to shift the blame for the GOP’s failure to make good on seven years’ of promises to replace Obamacare with something better. The Post reported on Monday that House GOP leaders are now focused on one political goal: “Pass a bill they can say repeals Obamacare — even if it has no hope of survival in the Senate — to shield their members in next year’s elections.”
This time around, the House Freedom Caucus would prefer not to take the brunt of the blame for AHCA’s failure, and they’ve successfully pushed the legislation to the right. They frame reducing Obamacare’s protections for people with preexisting conditions as cutting costs and making the U.S. health system freer.
But GOP Representative Mo Brooks slipped on Monday, admitting that he doesn’t think we should punish healthy people for being “good” by forcing them to pay for people who don’t take care of themselves.
“It will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool that helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy,” explained Brooks. “And right now, those are the people who have done things the right way that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”
Watch Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks make the case for Trumpcare on CNN.
Twitter quickly filled up with people asking Brooks what moral failing gave them thyroid cancer, or how their poor choices at age 3 ended in a car accident. But the most vivid counterpoint to the GOP’s entire health-care push came later on Monday night from, of all people, a late-night comedian.
In a heart-wrenching 13-minute monologue, Jimmy Kimmel opened up about his son’s heart condition, which was discovered just hours after his birth ten days ago. With tears in his eyes, the host described the harrowing ordeal, which started with a nurse noticing baby William John Kimmel’s color was off and ended with him being rushed into open-heart surgery.
Baby Billy is doing well, though he’ll need several more surgeries. Kimmel closed with a plea for politicians to make sure others have a similarly happy outcome, even if they aren’t born to wealthy parents.
We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, but until a few years ago, millions and millions of us had no access to health insurance at all. You know, before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease, like my son was, there’s a good chance you’d never be able to get health insurance, because you had a pre-existing condition. You were born with a preexisting condition. And if your parents didn’t have insurance, you may not even live long enough to get denied because of a preexisting condition.
If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make. I think that’s something that whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?
Kimmel said that regardless of party, “We need to make sure that the people who are supposed to represent us, people who are meeting about this right now in Washington, understand that very clearly.”
The GOP’s Obamacare repeal effort appeared to be hanging by a thread before Kimmel’s monologue aired. Republicans reportedly see this week as their last opportunity to pass a version of AHCA, and on Monday several Trump officials claimed they’re close to the 216 votes needed to pass the bill. However, by the Wall Street Journal’s count, they can only afford a few defections:
At least 19 House Republicans are currently opposed to the bill, with at least 17 undecided, according to a Wall Street Journal survey of the lawmakers. The GOP can only afford to lose about 22 votes, depending on absences.
On Monday afternoon, Representative Billy Long, a Trump ally who supported a previous version of the bill, said he’ll vote against the current measure, citing its lack of protections for people with preexisting conditions.
“I have always stated that one of the few good things about Obamacare is that people with preexisting conditions would be covered,” Long said. “The MacArthur amendment strips away any guarantee that preexisting conditions would be covered and affordable.”
Around 2 million people watch Kimmel’s show each night, and his name was trending on Twitter following his moving monologue about his son. Kimmel succinctly explained what tinkering with protections for preexisting conditions could do to an innocent baby, and pointed out that’s what the GOP is trying to do this week. What wavering House Republican is going to decide now is the time to come out in favor of the bill?