Obamacare increased access to physicals like the one that found McCain’s blood clot

The Senate wants to cut that exact kind of coverage.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
CREDIT: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced this weekend that he would delay a vote on the “Better Care Act,” the Senate’s version of Trumpcare, because Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is still recovering from surgery for a blood clot. Since McConnell can’t afford to lose a single vote, he is dependent on McCain being on the floor to cast his vote.

But there’s an incredible irony to McCain’s surgery being the cause of the delay on the GOP’s health care vote. According to McCain’s office, the clot was found during a routine physical — a type of preventative care that was expanded under Obamacare and threatens to be limited under Trumpcare.

Thanks to Obamacare, which expanded Americans’ access to health coverage and limited the amount of money they can be charged for preventative care, Americans are able to see doctors more often.

Obamacare’s Medicaid expansions in 30 states and the District of Columbia, in particular, had a significant impact on low-income people’s ability to access preventative services. One study found that low-income childless adults received 5.4 percent more preventative services in the past year thanks to the expansion. Researchers also found these people were 6.6 percent more likely to have a personal doctor and 11.5 percent less likely to skip out on needed health care because it was too expensive for them to afford.


This jibes with another study that found Obamacare greatly decreased the rate of uninsured people, particularly in the states that opted to expand Medicaid. As a result, in 38 states and D.C., the percentage of adults who avoided seeing a doctor because of costs declined by at least two points. Additionally, non-elderly older adults at risk of certain conditions were more likely to see a doctor on a regular basis.

Annual physicals are not guaranteed to be free under Obamacare, particularly if doctors order certain tests that aren’t fully covered under the law. But the ability to regularly see a doctor, and the assurance that some preventative health care screenings will be covered at no additional cost, greatly increases the likelihood of catching the kind of warning sign that could be life-saving — as it may have been for McCain.

But these gains would likely be reversed under Trumpcare, which would ultimately phase out Medicaid in its entirety. Indeed, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price admitted this weekend that Trumpcare is designed to restore the status quo from before Obamacare, when Americans were largely left to the whims of the individual insurance market.

Questions remain about McCain’s condition, including whether he had exhibited symptoms that prompted his physicians to look for the clot. As one doctor told the New York Times, “Generally, it’s not found on a routine physical because doctors would not know to look for it.”

In the meantime, however, the delay in the vote provides more time in which another Republican senator may dissent, which would make Trumpcare unpassable. That would ensure that the kind of preventative coverage McCain benefited from wouldn’t be cut for millions of Americans.