Mitch McConnell finally confessed to his sins this week in going public with the Senate version of Republican health care. Of course, the bill is a travesty. It does not really have anything to do with healthcare at all, except as an obstacle to its true goal of massive tax cuts for the rich. Amazingly, the bill is not only more dishonest than its House counterpart, but it may actually be worse in the severity of its outcomes. So much for the Senate as the more reasonable body,
But here is truly scary part. In discussing the possibility of this atrocity becoming law, the press talks about a handful of Republican Senators. There is, rightly, no mention of what the Democrats might do. Sure, this partly reflects the fact that no Democrat is expected to vote for the bill. But it also reflects the fact that the Democrats have done nothing to make this bill harder to support. In part, this is because they refuse to acknowledge one truth that Donald Trump has accidentally told: we the people are now worse off with respect to healthcare than we were when the Affordable Care Act first went into effect. This is not for any of the reasons the Republicans or Trump name, but it is true all the same. The Affordable Care Act was not the success that it should have been, but Democrats need to explain that its failure was that it its design was vulnerable both to the trickery of the insurance industry and to outright sabotage by the Republicans. To explain, let me talk about my own situation.
I am the sole breadwinner for a family of four. My job is good enough that I do not qualify for the subsidies provided under the ACA, but I have my company health plan. My family and I have a host of pre-existing conditions, so we are heavy users of healthcare and we need a large menu of medicines each month. Over the past seven years, I have seen a steady increase in the dollar amount that comes out of my check for health care, and my out of pocket expenses have shot up as the insurance companies have gotten better at imposing copays and deductibles. So I am grateful for the fact that I can get insurance at all, given the pre-existing conditions. I am glad that my daughter, who is turning 22, can still be on my plan. And I understand that my health care expenses are still much less than they would be without the ACA. But my family and I are hurting, and Hillary Clinton is not our president in part because she did not sufficiently acknowledge and address this hurt. The situation is worse for my brother-in-law and his family. They do not have jobs that provide them benefits like mine, and they live in a state where a Republican governor and legislature blocked the Medicaid expansion that would have meant so much to them. For the first few years of the ACA, they had to choose whether to use the healthcare they could afford for themselves or their children, and of course they chose their children. Thankfully, they have now reached the point where they no longer have to make that devil’s bargain, but we were really worried about them for quite some time. Again, the provision regarding pre-existing conditions in the ACA meant that they could get healthcare for themselves once their job situations improved enough that they could afford it.
I am sure this country is full of families like mine, and like my brother-in-law’s. The Democrats are simply not talking to us. They are not acknowledging our hurt. Instead, they are reacting to what the Republicans are doing, and thereby letting Donald Trump and his allies control the conversation. Hillary Clinton spoke vaguely on the campaign trail of improving the ACA, but I regard myself is more politically aware than most Americans, and I don’t know what improvements she thought were needed. Only Bernie Sanders offered a solution, but he got bogged down in the question of how to pay for it in a way that suggested he was unable to master the details needed to make universal healthcare the law of the land. His approach also would have failed to persuade most Americans to support him in the face of Republican fearmongering. I have explained before how universal healthcare can be sold to the American people, but I have yet to hear any Democrat make this pitch. Barring that, the Democrats must explain all of the ways the ACA has made lives better, and all the ways it could be made to do so much more. They must help the American people to see how much better the ACA could be if the Republicans were not so intent on its destruction. One way or another, they must take back the conversation, and make the Republicans react to them for a change. The results of the midterm elections next year will depend on whether or not they can get it done.
I believe Americans are ready to hear the truth. Here is Sheryl Crow with the alternative we have now: