The Trump administration knows the health-care bill it so desperately wants Congress to pass is horribly unpopular. A poll released on Saturday shows that Americans prefer the Affordable Care Act to the Republican replacement plan, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, by a 50-24 margin, and previous iterations of the bill have drawn the least support of any major piece of legislation in 30 years.
The more people learn about what’s in the GOP plan, the more they seem to dislike it. So administration officials have fallen back on the strategy that comes most naturally to them: straight-up lying. And not just normal politician lying, but an up-is-down, black-is-white, “Oceania had always been at war with East Asia” campaign of mendacity.
The latest example of this deeply cynical game plan arrived Sunday, when Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price appeared on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures show and managed to keep a straight face while telling Maria Bartiromo that “we’re gonna be able to cover more individuals on this bill than are currently covered.”
This is, to put it generously, a suspect claim. The Congressional Budget Office calculated that the most recent version of the bill would leave 22 million Americans uninsured over the next decade. After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled that version from consideration, he allowed the bill to become even more conservative with the addition of the Cruz amendment, which would let insurers skirt Obamacare regulations and shunt sick people into a single corner of the market. Almost all health-care experts and major insurers agree this would be a disastrous approach, leading to steep cuts in the ranks of the insured. Though the CBO hasn’t yet scored the new version of the BCRA, the mere existence of the Cruz amendment, plus the gutting of Medicaid that remains a centerpiece of the bill, makes Price’s claim absurd on its face.
(Price also appeared on ABC’s This Week, where he said that insurers should think about returning to the pre-Obamacare way of doing things — a cruel but at least not-untrue summary of what the GOP wants to do.)
Of course, Price is not alone in his deceit. Vice-President Mike Pence, attending a conference of the nation’s governors on Friday, adopted the novel line that by devastating Medicaid, the GOP was actually “strengthening and securing” it. (Much like that iceberg “strengthened and secured” the Titanic.) Pence also propagated a straightforward lie about Ohio’s Medicaid rolls that drew harsh rebukes from officials in the state.
Someone who sees things very differently than Price or Pence is GOP senator Susan Collins, one of only two Republicans — Rand Paul is the second — who has already come out as a “no” on the BCRA. (A third would sink the bill.) Collins unloaded on the proposed cuts to Medicaid on This Week providing a bracing and intriguing bit of counterprogramming to her party’s fabulistic tales.
“This bill would make sweeping and deep cuts in the Medicaid program, which has been a safety-net program on the books for more than 50 years, insuring that some of our most vulnerable citizens, our disabled children, our low-income seniors, receive the healthcare that they need,” she said, truthfully.
Perhaps, for the sake of the country’s poor and sick population, some GOP fence-sitters will listen to her.