Two weeks ago a reality check occurred, one that reminded us that the midterm elections have life and death consequences. It also reminded us that the last lion of the United States Senate, one who made the politically hard but humanly and compassionately easy choice between life and death, has died and gone home to meet his maker no longer able to prevent certain death for some and preservation of life for others.
Two weeks ago the second most powerful Republican in the country, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said Republicans could try again to repeal Obamacare if they win enough seats in the midterm elections next week. He described Republicans’ failed attempt to repeal healthcare for millions of Americans a “disappointment”. McConnell hopes favorable results for Republicans in the midterm elections will give them a second bite at the apple. But based on non-partisan facts favorable Republican results in the midterm elections will mean a healthcare disaster for America.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that Republicans’ failed Health Care Freedom Act of 2017 would lead to 16 million fewer people having healthcare insurance by the year 2026, and would increase premiums by 20% for people buying their healthcare insurance in the individual marketplace every year between 2018 and 2026 according to their analysis.
The true “disappointment” McConnell referred to was not the failure of the vote. It was the thumbs-down act performed by the last lion of the Senate the now deceased Senator John McCain. It was a late Thursday night in July of 2017, Republicans had their number one healthcare legislative goal, the repeal of Obamacare, on the Senate floor for an up or down vote. Vice President Mike Pence was present just in case his vote was needed for victory, and all Republicans needed was just one vote to achieve their repeal goal.
After being lobbied by Vice President Pence and stepping into a back room to take a call from President Trump. Senator McCain walked on to the Senate floor and stood in front of the clerk recording the votes of each Senator, he then did a dramatic thumbs down gesture signaling a no vote to the repeal effort killing Republicans attempt to deny healthcare for millions of Americans.
Senator McCain’s dramatic vote to stop Republicans from repealing Obamacare and the media’s lack of coverage on healthcare issues since that time. Gave many Americans the false impression that Republican repeal efforts have ceased. Nothing could be further from the truth! Since McCain’s no-vote President Trump and the Republican-controlled House and Senate have quietly with hardly any media or public scrutiny, taken major actions to significantly diminish the viability of affordable healthcare for millions of Americans. Actions that can only be reversed if Democrats have successful midterm elections.
President Trump led the way by flexing his executive order muscle. A few months after the failed repeal vote, but well ahead of the midterm elections, he signed 2 damaging executive orders affecting Obamacare. The first one stopped the federal government from making Cost-Sharing-Reduction (CSR) payments to insurance companies. The CSR payments were one of Obamacare’s key components, they offset the cost to insurers of offering affordable health care plans to poor Americans. Insurers repeatedly warned that if the payments were cut off, they would be forced to raise premiums to make up the financial loss.
Obamacare requires insurers to reduce cost-sharing for individuals who enroll in silver plans and have household incomes not exceeding 250 percent of the federal poverty level. These provisions reduce the out-of-pocket limit for these enrollees — particularly for those with incomes below 200 percent of poverty — and sharply reduce deductibles, co-insurance, and copayments. The CSR payments to insurance companies were totaling around $7 billion a year, the only way these payments will resume is if Democrats have successful midterm elections.
The White House announced “based on guidance from the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare,” in light of this analysis, the Government cannot lawfully make the cost-sharing reduction payments.”
The second executive order loosened the rules surrounding the offering of healthcare plans by small businesses, as well as rules about enrollment in short-term healthcare insurance plans that are less expensive and less comprehensive than Obamacare health care plans. Federal agencies were ordered to rewrite the rules to allow plans to be larger and sold across state lines. Because those plans won’t have the same minimum coverage requirements as Obamacare, the premiums will be cheaper and the healthcare received will be bare bones.
The order also directed Federal agencies to reverse an Obama administration directive limiting enrollment in short-term insurance plans not meeting minimum coverage requirements to three months, President Trump wants that extended to a year. He claims millions of people will get cheaper coverage from the new “association health plans.” What he doesn’t tell you is that the new “association health plans” will be exempt from the consumer protections mandated by Obamacare.
They won’t provide certain “essential health benefits” like mental health care, emergency services, maternity and newborn care, and prescription drugs. Similar health plans have a history of fraud and abuse that have left employers and employees with millions of dollars in unpaid medical bills. The problems are illustrated in dozens of court cases and enforcement actions taken over more than a decade by both federal and state officials.
By December 2017 Republican legislators joined in with their own severe blow to Obamacare. Both the Senate and House passed a repeal of the mandate as part of their tax-cut legislation. An analysis by the CBO estimated that 13 million more people would go without insurance by 2027 without the mandate. Also without the mandate, the CBO found that health insurance premiums would rise by about 10 percent in most years over the next decade in the individual market created by the Affordable Care Act.
The individual mandate that required everyone to buy health care insurance is a central tenet of Obamacare that all healthcare policy experts and proponents agree is essential to making the law work. It compels young and healthy people to buy health insurance which helps lower premiums for everyone by offsetting the costs of sicker patients. The CBO said abolishing the requirement would cause premiums to rise because healthier people would be less likely to purchase insurance. This then would cause a domino effect because of the resulting premium increases due to less young and healthier people buying health insurance, would cause even more people to forego buying health insurance.
Republicans added the repeal of the Obamacare mandate that required everyone to buy health care insurance to their tax-cut law. The goal was to do it while the media had everyone focused on the huge controversial tax-cut give away to the wealthy, so Republicans could slip in the repeal of the mandate while no one was paying attention and almost a year ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
Based on these under the radar moves, Republicans are literally one midterm elections victory away from totally abolishing Obamacare. Meaning life and death are literally on the ballot in the 2018 midterm elections. Successful Republican midterm elections mean the repeal of Obamacare and DEATH to many Americans because repeal means they will be denied access to affordable healthcare. Successful Democratic midterm elections mean repairing Obamacare and LIFE to many Americans because repair means they will be given access to affordable healthcare!!!
Isaac Newton Farris Jr. is the nephew of Martin Luther King, Jr. and serves as Senior Fellow at the King Center. Growing up in one of the most socially and politically active families has given him a unique perspective on current events. Drop by his website for straight talk free of one-sided political spin.
Originally published at isaacnewtonfarris.com on October 29, 2018.