During an interview with a Wisconsin radio station on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) accused Trumpcare opponents of using “over the top” and “hysterical” rhetoric when they point out the well-understood connection between people losing health insurance and people dying.
“The rhetoric is just over the top,” Ryan said. “I have seen a lot in my day and this rhetoric — it’s hysterical, it’s hyperbolic, it’s really something.”
Ryan went on to suggest that, in the wake of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) being shot and seriously wounded at Republican congressional baseball team practice on June 14, Trumpcare opponents need to tone it down.
“We almost lost Steve that day. It was really close for about 48 hours there and he’s a really close friend of mine,” Ryan said. “Let’s all fight with respect and civility for the beliefs and causes we believe in, but let’s be civil with one another… and accusing people who are trying to solve a health care problem of trying to kill people is not having a civil debate.”
Ryan may not want to talk about it, but the fact remains that Trumpcare will kill people. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill would result in somewhere between 22 and 23 million Americans losing their health insurance over the next decade, compared to Obamacare. The majority of those coverage losses occur because of Trumpcare’s deep cuts to Medicaid.
A study looking at states that enacted Medicaid expansions in the early 2000s relative to neighboring ones found a correlation between coverage gains and lower mortality rates, particularly with respect to treatable conditions like heart disease, infections, and cancer. Another study of “Medicaid’s mortality effects” found “one life saved for every 239 to 316 adults who gained coverage.”
Ryan is willing to politicize Scalise’s shooting in service of a tax cut for the wealthy masquerading as health care reform, but he doesn’t acknowledge the role having health insurance has played and continues to play in Scalise’s recovery. As Brian Beutler of the New Republic wrote last week, the fact Scalise has coverage means he “will likely be spared the second-most horrifying consequence of his injuries: the financial cost.”
“Through no fault of his own, Scalise has just incurred hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in medical expenses,” Beutler writes. “And while he may ultimately be responsible for a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of these costs, he and his Republican colleagues in Congress are, as he convalesces, attempting to expose millions of Americans to the kind of financial ruin he has so far avoided.”
Ryan doesn’t view it that way. During a Fox & Friends interview Tuesday morning, he portrayed health care coverage as an oppressive burden that low-income Americans would freely discard.
With regard to the Congressional Budget Office’s evaluation that the Senate Trumpcare bill would cost at least 22 million Americans their coverage, Ryan said, “what they’re basically saying at the CBO is if you’re not going to force people to buy Obamacare, if you’re not going to force people to buy something that they don’t want, they won’t buy it.”
“So it’s not that people are getting pushed off a plan,” he continued. “It’s that people will choose not to buy something they don’t like or want.”
Ryan is far from the only person ignorant or in denial about the connection between having coverage and lower mortality rates.
"You can't talk about people DYING from losing access to health care" might literally be the dumbest argument in the history of the Internet pic.twitter.com/clxckojyF9
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) June 27, 2017
Perhaps the most egregious example came Tuesday evening on Fox News. During a discussion about Senate Republicans’ decision to temporarily pull the plug on Trumpcare, host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery criticized progressive “hysteria” about the bill, which would cost 22 million Americans their health care, since “we’re all going to die” anyway.
“You know what, at least they are not employing any hyperbole at all. No exaggeration, no hysteria,” she said. “You know what the crazy thing is? We’re all going to die. And they can’t predict — there’s no way unless they are absolutely psychic and have a party line to heaven, they don’t know who’s going to die or when or how many people.”
Ryan’s call for civility comes amid controversy about a National Rifle Association recruitment video that stops just short of calling for violence against anti-Trump progressives.