Senate Does Not Produce Less Mean Health Care Plan

Instead, It Sets Out To Pulverize Medicaid

The program, which covers poor and disabled Americans, 1 out of every 5 Americans in all, and nearly 50% of all births, and 25% of opioid abuse treatment, and 60% of all children with disabilities, would be cut, and limited, and–for the first time–capped under the Senate’s plan. Medicaid would be reduced not just back to where it was before Obamacare expanded it, but way beyond that and way deeper. [New York Times] [The Atlantic]

A couple of things to keep in mind:

• Medicaid cutbacks have been at the forefront of the radical Conservative agenda for years, so this should not come as a surprise. The Koch brothers have been fighting Medicaid for years, and recently it’s become something of a losing battle for them. But no more.

• During the campaign, Trump vowed he would not touch Medicaid. Or Social Security. Or Medicare.

So now what?

The Rest Very Similar To House Version

Where’s the “fresh start”, “clean slate”, “focus on the doable”, “take our time” approach Senate Republicans promised when the House version passed? 

Both the House bill that passed, and the Senate bill released and largely written by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are centered around two major principles:

Doing away with the “individual mandate”. And replacing it with nothing. The Obamacare requirement that all Americans buy health care or face a penalty was considered essential for affordable coverage of pre-existing conditions, and a high level of care. Now there’s little incentive for healthy people to sign up, meaning many Americans will likely spend more for less coverage.

Giving the rich their money back. For all the complaints Obamacare was a massive plot to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor, Trumpcare is shaping up as an exact mirror image. It redistributes wealth from the poor to the rich in the form of huge tax cuts.

There are some differences:

• Senate bill better protects patients with pre-existing conditions. Unlike the House bill, it does not allow insurers to exclude pre-existing conditions if people fail to pay a premium or two, nor can states apply to waive coverage of pre-existing conditions.

• Federal subsidies to help pay for premiums would be based on income, age and location, not simply on age as in the House version. But similar to the House version, older people can be charged 5X higher premiums.

• Creates a $2 billion fund earmarked for opioid abuse treatment. Ohio Senator Rob Portman had requested $45 billion.

Sarah Kliff, from Vox, discusses all this in more detail here.

Several Republicans Express Opposition, But Let’s Be Realistic: They Ultimately Will Probably Support

More moderate Republicans think the bill slashes too much, extreme right-wing Republicans still think it’s way too generous. If only three Republicans decide to vote “no”, the bill will not pass the Senate. Seems like an impossible bridge to gap, right? Wrong.

Too many Liberals fell into this trap (and even cried “victory!”) when health care seemed hamstrung in the House. The divisions and differences are similar here, and the same thing will probably ultimately happen here. That’s because when a politician says they “don’t support something in its current form” or they “have reservations” (especially when it’s something their own party is doing,) what they usually mean is “I’ll do it, but I want something first.”

When we predicted health care would pass in the House after a lot of smart people around us were declaring it dead, we said at the time we hoped we were wrong. So we’ll say it again: we hope we are wrong.

Obama Weighs In With A Way Out, But Let’s Be Realistic: It Ain’t Gonna Happen

Former President Obama seemed to have waited, on the chance the Senate’s “Better Care” bill would actually be better. But after its release, he appealed to Congress for reflection, and the American people for action:

“…it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need. That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it’s possible – if you are willing to make a difference again. If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.”

In a lengthy post on Facebook, he also slammed the Senate bill saying it’s “not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else.”

How Obama Battled Russian Election Hacks, And Did He Go Far Enough?

The Washington Post has a great investigative story this morning on Putin’s cyber assault on the U.S. election and what Obama did/didn’t do–including planting cyber weapons inside Russia, something we had not heard about before. The Post calls the Russian attacks “the crime of the century”, but concludes “because of the divergent ways Obama and Trump have handled the matter, Moscow appears unlikely to face proportionate consequences.”

Big Surprise On Comey Tapes! (Not!)

Guess what? The tapes Trump warned he might’ve made of his conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey, that we all suspected didn’t exist, actually don’t exist.

Yes, all politicians lie, but they don’t lie all the time, and just for fun. Only our 6-year old nephew does that.

And We Thought Politicians Only Played Hardball

We didn’t even know there was a charity baseball game among members of congress until a week ago. Now we find out there’s also a congressional charity softball game. Only this one, instead of Republicans vs. Democrats, is Members of Congress vs. the Media. That means Republicans and Democrats not only had to appear on the same field, they were actually on the same team. In some ways, this kind of stuff is really encouraging to us (which is why we’re telling you about it.) And it raised a lot of money to support young women with breast cancer. In other ways we wonder, if there’s no chance of carrying this kind of camaraderie back to Capitol Hill, why bother? The Media won, BTW, 2-1.

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