The lawmakers who are trying to repeal and replace Obamacare can’t answer basic questions about their health care vision for the country.
This week, a group of Vox reporters asked eight Republican senators to detail which specific features of the the American Health Care Act (AHCA) they support and how they think those provisions would benefit their constituents. None of them could cite a single thing, falling back on generalities about how Obamacare is bad and freedom is good.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) dodged policy altogether and kept bringing the interview back to politics.
“Well, it’s whether you have full repeal, whether you have partial repeal, whether you have the basis of it,” he said, in response to a question about what problems the AHCA is trying to solve. “What I hear is that we have not reached consensus. That’s what everybody knows.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) case seemed to boil down to the observation that a stable insurance market is better than an unstable one — even though the AHCA contains no viable mechanism to bring down premiums and the instability in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges is largely a result of Republican sabotage.
Asked how the AHCA will address the problem of insurers pulling out of health care exchanges, Grassley replied, “Well, by bringing certainty to the insurance market. They don’t have that certainty now.”
Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) said the AHCA “makes it such that it’s more affordable.” But when pressed on how, he backtracked, saying, “Well, we don’t have a bill. That’s what we’re working on. The reason we’re working really hard to come up with a bill is to solve some of the problems of Obamacare.”
Instead of delving into specifics, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) said the AHCA will “encourage more freedom by eliminating mandates at the individual level and the employer.” But the type of freedom provided by eliminating the individual is giving people with pre-existing conditions the ability to be unable to afford coverage altogether, as was the case before the Affordable Care Act.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said “[w]e should work toward giving consumers more choices, more options, more competition, and as a result lower prices that are more affordable.” But the choice the AHCA provides is one where consumers in some states can buy health insurance that doesn’t cover things like hospitalization or maternity care, while the lower premiums and deductibles young healthy people will enjoy comes at the cost of pricing those who need coverage most out of the market altogether.
And on and on it goes. The only Republican senator interviewed by Vox who explicitly criticized the AHCA was Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who said of the House version of the bill, “I want greater access and lower costs. So far, I’m not seeing that happen.”
“The plan the House laid down does not help Alaska. It does not help decrease their costs, and it does not help increase their access,” she continued. “I can’t show to my constituents back home anything concrete because we don’t have anything. We’ve been talking about ideas.”
Indeed, a group of all-male senators have been working to draft their health care bill in secret. During congressional testimony on Thursday, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price acknowledged that even he hasn’t seen the text of the bill.
So-called Trumpcare is essentially a tax cut for the rich masquerading as health care reform. The version that passed the House would cost 23 million Americans their health insurance while dramatically increasing costs for older Americans and people with pre-existing conditions, and the secret Senate bill is reportedly shaping up to look quite similar.
Polling indicates that the AHCA has 38 percent support or less in every state in the union. It’s so unpopular that even Fox News can’t spin it.
Poll: View of the American Health Care Act. pic.twitter.com/CZqCGrJfsE
— Fox News (@FoxNews) June 9, 2017
Nonetheless, despite the legislation’s unpopularity and lawmakers’ apparent unfamiliarity with it, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recently told President Trump that he hopes to have a health care bill ready for a vote before the July 4 recess. Toward that goal, McConnell recently gave the health care bill “fast track” status — meaning it can skip the committee process altogether and be subject to as little scrutiny as possible before hitting the Senate floor for a vote.