Franklin Delano Roosevelt, president during the Great Depression, created Social Security in 1935 as one of the most significant laws of his New Deal. All presidents who followed F.D.R. realized how important Social Security was to the American people. It overcame what Will Rogers called “going to the poor house in an automobile.” All people who work would contribute a percent of their earnings to the F.D.I.C. (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) which insures against bank failures. When they reached 62 or 65, they could retire with an income from their earned savings. It was not an “entitlement” a term that politicians often use. Few presidents after F.D.R. have tried to make changes in Social Security, fearing it would lead to major losses of support and votes in future elections. George W. Bush flirted with certain possible “adjustments” in his first term that never came to fruition. He avoided the danger of stepping on “The Third Rail.”
Donald J. Trump boasted during the campaign that he would repeal and replace Obamacare with “a plan that would cover EVERYBODY and LOWER COSTS.” When he later turned his attention to health care during his first l00 days, he commented, “We didn’t realize the complexity.” He also insisted Obamacare was dying and would soon collapse. The facts do not support this false assertion. Millions of people are healthier with Obamacare. And public opinion has shifted. National polls show that the majority of Americans are positive about the benefits of The Affordable Care Act. This became very evident when T.V. covered town meetings of Congressional representatives and senators. Thousands of women and men waved “Save A.C.A.” signs and shouted A.C.A., A.C.A. at the speakers. They told personal stories of family members lives being saved. The Indivisibles , groups that oppose Trump policies, camped outside offices of their Representatives across the country in support of Obamacare.
The Republicans first attempt to pass a replacement to Obamacare resulted in failure when Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill, knowing they didn’t have the votes. The House Representatives were split , with the very conservative Freedom Caucus opposed. Trump was furious and wanted to punish them. He had gone to The House and warned them, “Vote or you’ll be stuck with Obamacare!” After he calmed down, he announced that he would not set Health Care aside.
In the weeks that followed, House members began to make major changes to attract the Freedom Caucus members. Obamacare had a list of “Essential Provisions”. The changes, called amendments, cut some very popular provisions from that list. “Pre-existing Conditions” is one of the most important provisions that people have cited as saving family lives under Obamacare. Millions of Americans struggle with Cancer, different types and stages, Asthma and other respiratory diseases, Heart disease, Diabetes, Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy , Mental Illness, Drug Addiction, Autism…. There were ninety one different Pre-existing Conditions covered by Obamacare. Under Trumpcare, that guarantee of coverage would no longer exist. Instead, each state could decide whether to issue a waiver that could raise the cost of the coverage . Other Essentials were also dropped or changed.
Another crucial change could eliminate the subsidies that the federal government provides to the states that offer Medicaid under Obamacare to their people. Certain Republican governors joined the Democratic governors in offering Medicaid. Governor Kasich of Ohio has deep concerns about the 850 thousand men, women and children in Ohio who will lose coverage if Trump pulls the 90 percent federal subsidies from the state. He has indicated he may do that.
The heart of Trumpcare is to take dollars from Medicaid and turn them into a tax cut for the richest Americans. That includes the Trump family, of course. The bill would cut $880 billion dollars over ten years from Medicaid which provides health care to 74 million poor, disabled and elderly Americans. As a result, 26 million fewer people would have access to health care by 2026 according to the Congressional Budget Office (C.B.O.) analysis of the earlier bill with similar Medicaid provisions. That threat of millions losing health care they have finally gained in Obama care is fueling the growing Resistance Movement across the country. The Republicans rushed their revision through before the C.B.O. had a chance to score the new version which will probably cause larger numbers of Americans to lose health care by 2026. Many House members also admitted they had not read it; aides had scanned it.
On Thursday, April 4, the House Health Care bill narrowly passed: 217 to 213. Twenty moderate Republicans voted against the bill. It now goes to the Senate where four Republican senators of their 52 have already said they would not support it. Others are skeptical at best. Some have said they will start from scratch to write a new bill. When one considers that Obamacare was created and written by health experts working with the legislators to craft their bill, one wonders how senators will have the knowledge to do that. Barack Obama brought in doctors, nurses, health experts, insurance and pharmaceutical representatives to work on his bill. It took many months. Then it was presented to the House and Senate for extended discussion and debate. Eventually, The Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010 by President Obama.
It is ironic that thirteen senators, all men. have been chosen to produce their version of a health care bill. Three of the four Republican senators opposed to the House bill are women. One wonders why they were not chosen to be on the newly formed committee. Much of health care is of particular concern to women.
There is a section in the House bill that defunds Planned Parenthood. That cuts funding for mammograms to screen for cancer, birth control and other vital services for 2.5 million people, mostly women.
After the House bill passed, Trump gathered supporters at the White House to celebrate the victory. The picture flashed across the country and the world showing a phalanx of well dressed white men, most older and rich, with only two women off to the side. Trump stood front and center with his arms outstretched, a triumphant smile on his face. He had finally chalked up a legislative achievement in his first hundred days. Members Of Congress went home for another long recess. They were immediately met by angry voters who had followed the House vote on television. Representative Raul Labrador was met by hundreds of people at a packed town meeting on Friday nite, May 5 in Idaho. An angry woman demanded to know why Pre-existing Conditions was no longer guaranteed coverage in the new bill. His reply, “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to Health Care” went viral in seconds across cable TV and social media. He had become famous — or infamous instantly.
I thought of “The Art of The Deal”, when Donald Trump said that playing to people’s fantasies and promising the greatest product was an “innocent form of exaggeration.” In this case, he had promised “health care for everybody with lower costs” over and over during his campaign. Now, it could come back to haunt him and Republicans in Congress when they run for re-election in the 2018 Midterms and the 2020 Presidential year. They may all discover a new version of The Third Rail in United States politics.
…………………………………………………………………………………… Joyce S. Anderson