Back in 1996, my brother was diagnosed with Wilson’s Disease, a rare genetic disorder that prevents his body from processing copper, an essential element found in foods like greens, whole grains, beans, nuts and shell fish. The symptoms of the disease are similar to lead poisoning. Left untreated, the disease is always fatal, usually from liver failure. Treatment requires lifelong monitoring and drugs to keep copper levels low.
Eight years later, in 2004, I was diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma called Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia. Fortunately, I’m asymptomatic for the time being and may be for a lot longer. Still, I need to monitor the progress of the disease and will likely need treatment at some point or the disease will kill me.
A few years later, as my wife was transitioning between jobs, our health insurance briefly lapsed. She discovered she was pregnant during that period and her pregnancy was not covered. A somewhat complicated birth cost us more than $20,000.
So, when Republicans talk about allowing insurance companies to deny people coverage because of pre-existing conditions, I take it personally, especially when they blame problems on lifestyle. Today, the US House will vote to do just that. If the Senate concurs, people will die because of their decision. And that’s not speculation, that’s a fact.
The bill that the GOP will pass today has not been properly vetted or debated. The party that complained that nine months of debate in 2009 to pass Obamacare was too little, will pass a bill that hasn’t even been scored by the Congressional Budget Office. They don’t even know how much it will cost. Today’s vote is an exercise in putting politics over policy. The GOP wants to pass a repeal bill regardless of its merits.
The bill that passes today is opposed by the AARP, the American Medical Association, and virtually every group that actually provides health care to Americans. In addition, almost all patient advocacy groups oppose it, too, including the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association. In contrast, the House Freedom Caucus supports it. Whose side do you think Republicans are on?
To make matters worse, Congress exempted its members from losing their coverage due to pre-existing conditions. They and their families will be covered regardless. This bill is good for sitting members of Congress and insurance companies. It’s bad for the people who need health care coverage the most.
Republicans could fix Obamacare by stabilizing the individual insurance market, pressuring states to expand Medicaid, encouraging more young people to sign up and focusing more on reducing the cost of health care. That’s what providers, advocates and even insurance companies want. Instead, the GOP is listening to the House Freedom Caucus and the Tea Party.
This bill that will hurt millions of Americans and has little support outside of the ideologues driving the GOP agenda and the confused guy in the White House. The only consolation is that it may well cost Republicans their majority in Congress. As one conservative on twitter wrote: “I get sacrificing your majority for a major policy win (8 yrs out of power in the House for ObamaCare is a good trade). But this mish-mash?” That’s small comfort given the pain too many people will suffer.