Liberty Expose: The GOP's Healthcare Theatre

Think about the current state of American politics: reflect upon the absurdity of the actors, the complexity of the system, and the collective hysteria of the media.  Now intensify all those negative aspects and we have the debacle that is the GOP healthcare bill. In the American political theater, the GOP health bill is a play of a thousand acts; the attempt to ascertain the details of the bill has been a near impossibility, selling the bill has been a disgrace to modern political advertising, while getting support for the bill has forced GOP members to turn on one another – and that’s just the House bill. Take that and add a few medical emergencies, and we have the Senate bill.

 Some on the Left believe the GOP health bill to be the greatest of American tragedies; others, such as myself, believe the hysteria is much ado about nothing. Each faction has a different take: progressives are vehemently against the new bill, with former Vice President Joe Biden stating that the bill is enough to “make your blood boil.” Some conservatives believe that the bills keep too much of the structure of Obamacare intact, with Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky referring to one of the versions of the bill as “Obamacare-Lite.” Moderates such as Senator Susan Collins of Maine stated that she would need a “complete overhaul” of the bill in order to support it.

 GOP leaders must play a dangerous game in order to find support for the bill. There is no definition of a “good” bill that the intellectually diverse GOP can agree on. What will be good to Rand Paul and Ted Cruz will appeal Susan Collins, and vice versa. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are quickly learning that every action has an opposite or greater reaction. The supposed greatest advocate (in theory) of the GOP bill, President Donald Trump, has done a deplorable job selling the bill. In the President’s characteristically incoherent mode style of rhetoric, Mr. Trump once referred to the bill as “mean” but also stated that he will be “very angry” if the bill did not pass. With the lack of rhetorical support from the executive, the bill nicknamed after President Trump has no spokesperson. The lack of a leader will make unification of the party even more daunting.  

For years, Republicans have campaigned on promises of repealing the Affordable Care Act. Their campaigning paid off; due to the skyrocketing premiums that became associated with the ACA, the GOP was handed control of the House in 2010, the Senate in 2014, and in 2016 a Republican made to the White House promising the oversee the destruction of the ACA. Now that it is time to deliver, the GOP is failing to deliver their promise effectively.

It is important to note that there is not a single health care bill being presented. As one who understands basic civics understands, both the House and the Senate design different bills, and it is up to the legislature to iron out the differences and present a unified bill to the executive. With that said, the most effective way to describe the health bill was articulated by Senator Paul, when he referred to the Senate bill as “Obamacare-Lite.”  The healthcare bills, especially the Senate version, trims around the edges of Obamacare, but keeps much of the structure of the ACA in place.

More conservative critics of the Senate bill note that the bill retains the pre-existing condition mandate in place. Critics also argue that the health bill adversely affects the elderly, with seniors likely to be charged five times higher than younger people. Right-wing critics are concerned that the tax credit system would create another de facto entitlement program. The healthcare bill also gives a 30% sub-charge to those who do not want or get insurance. Medicaid expansion will remain in place until 2020, and the so-called “Cadillac” tax will remain in place. In a move that will anger those concerned about crony capitalism, the health bill will allow for the bailing out of insurers.

Much of the same criticisms of the Senate bill can be ascribed to the House bill as well: the House bill creates a backdoor mandate, retains the pre-existing condition mandate, and subsidizes Medicaid.

Proponents of the bill point out first and foremost that the new healthcare bill is not Obamacare. The Senate bill recently won the support of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas with the addition of the Cruz amendment, or the “consumer freedom amendment,” which gives insurers more flexibility in the plans they can offer. The bill also blocks federal funding of Planned Parenthood, and prevents additional tax-funded abortion programs

Most of the arguments in favor of the new bill predicate themselves on additional tax breaks, and the ability for Republicans to continue modifying the bill and improve it. According to their logic, any GOP alternative is preferable to Obamacare, and failure replacing the ACA, however flawed the replacement may be, should be supported. But voices in support of the bill are few, on both the left and right – though for different reasons.

Part of the difficulty of researching the bill is the puerile behavior exhibited by both the Left and the media. Outlets like the Huffington Post and CNN have pushed the narrative that the new bill labels rape as a “pre-existing condition.” That is completely untrue. Sally Kohn of CNN tweeted a picture of a sign that depicts Paul Ryan with a caption that says “troubled Wisconsin man goes on 50 state killing spree.” It will behoove critics of the new bills to not argue from the lowest denominator, and rather present their ideas as a respectable alternative to what is being presented. Arguing from the premise that members on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum act with malicious intent will only agitate the divide in American politics and society.

It seems that George Orwell’s prophecy in his essay Politics and the English Language is coming into fruition. Politics has always attracted those who do not contribute to the debate; that is the cost of democracy. However, in this instance, members of both ideological divisions in America oppose the new bill. And while many who oppose the bill fail to articulate a mature response, there is an overwhelming argument from the right against the bill – and it seems that many Americans agree. Republicans should take note that they took power because of a bad healthcare bill – how ironic it would be if they lose power because of their own bad bill.