A small group of Senate Republicans — comprising 13 white men and zero women whatsoever, to be precise — is currently writing the Senate version of the overwhelmingly unpopular American Health Care Act (AHCA), which the GOP was able to pass with a narrow margin in the House of Representatives.
The Senate is supposed to vote on the bill sometime before July 4, which might seem like enough time for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to analyze and score the bill, but in reality, it doesn’t mean anything because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and co. refuse to release the details of the new bill.
In fact, we do not even know if it is going to be a new bill.
After all, when the Republicans introduced Trumpcare and the CBO estimated it would leave nearly 24 million Americans without insurance, the House GOP decided to withhold the voting and said they would amend it. However, when they brought out what they claimed was a new bill and immediately voted on it without waiting for an analysis, it turned out Trumpcare 2.0 was virtually the same as its predecessor.
So why is Senate’s bill going to necessarily be different? What if they bring out a similar bill or something even worse? The American people will not have a way of knowing because the Senate is actively concealing it.
The new health care bill is so secretive even Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is not privy to it — or so he claimed during a hearing when Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) asked if he or anyone in his department had the Senate’s version of Trumpcare.
“I’ve had multiple conversations with senators who are interested in making certain that we have a health care system that works for patients, my staff has provided technical assistance,” Price responded. “I haven’t seen any legislative language.”
When Durbin expressed disbelief, Price added, “As I say, my staff has provided some technical assistance to individuals, but I haven’t seen any legislative language.”
“Well, we haven’t seen it either,” Durbin exclaimed, seemingly stunned at the revelation. “And we’re told that we’re going to vote on it in a matter of days, without a CBO score, and without any revelation of what’s included in that.”
The House Republicans’ health care bill to replace and repeal Affordable Care Act would eliminate most Obamacare taxes that helped subsidize private health coverage for individuals, roll back the Medicaid health plan for the poor and disabled, and replace the law's income-based tax credits for buying medical coverage with credits based on age.
According to an estimate, higher premiums and cuts to Medicaid expansion would leave 24 million more people uninsured than Obamacare in 2026.
Since Senate Republicans are not sharing the contents of their drafts with either the Democrats or their own senators, it is impossible to say how different or alike the two bills are.
It is also ironic how, back in 2009, these very Republicans threw a fit over Obamacare hearings, which, unlike Trumpcare, went on for many months, allowing Republicans to propose and debate hundreds of amendments.
“Congress is moving fast to rush through a health care overhaul that lacks a key ingredient: the full participation of you, the American people,” House Speaker Paul Ryan wrote in an op-ed at the time.
Whereas, McConnell warned Democrats they would lose elections if they tried to “jam” a bill through Congress — despite the fact that ACA arrived on the floor with a full CBO analysis of its potential impact.
As The New York Times recently reported, the secrecy surround the Senate’s health care is raising alarms on both sides of the aisle.
“I’ve said from Day 1, and I’ll say it again,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). “The process is better if you do it in public, and that people get buy-in along the way and understand what’s going on. Obviously, that’s not the route that is being taken.”
“They’re ashamed of the bill,” exclaimed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “If they liked the bill, they’d have brass bands marching down the middle of small-town America saying what a great bill it is. But they know it isn’t.”
How long are Republicans planning to keep the very people the bill would affect in complete darkness?
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters