Obamacare Repeal Could Be For Real: Things To Know About Republicans’ Last Ditch Health Care Bill

Things To Know About Republicans’ Last Ditch Health Care Bill

If you’ve been reading The Chaos Report over the past couple of weeks, you already know Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy’s plan was ignored by Republican leadership when they originally came up with it. But they never gave up even when it seemed no one was taking them seriously. (We always did, guys! Sadly.) And as Vox points out, it’s still far from a done deal. The Atlantic characterizes the plan as going “from no-shot to long-shot”.

The sole reason it’s gaining momentum now? Timing. (That and the fact that Graham and John McCain are buddies, so he could help get a yes vote out of McCain this time around.) The Washington Post puts it well: “The latest Obamacare overhaul bill gaining steam on Capitol Hill slashes health-care spending more deeply and would likely cover fewer people than a July bill that failed precisely because of such concerns. What’s different now is the sense of urgency….” That’s because if a bill doesn’t pass by the end of the month, for procedural reasons, it’ll then need 60 votes to pass, instead of 51. So it’s now or never.

Senator Bill Cassidy (R) Louisiana, bill co-author and mastermind

A Gift From The CBO

The Congressional Budget Office says it will provide only the numbers the Senate needs to proceed with a vote on the bill by next week. But that’s it.

The CBO says it won’t have a full assessment of the impact of the bill until after the Senate’s deadline for voting on it. So we won’t see projections of how many people will lose health insurance because of it, or how much money it’ll actually save the government. You know, those pesky details.

Normally, voting on a bill at this stage would be considered wildly irresponsible. At the same time, it might buy Republicans some cover and save them from the wrath of constituents at least temporarily. Anyway, Trump has suggested he doesn’t really trust the CBO (even though it’s run by a Republican appointee).

A Huge Redistribution Of Wealth

One aspect of the bill that still isn’t being sufficiently covered: it represents a huge redistribution of wealth from blue states to red states. That’s because states that fully embraced Obamacare (mostly blue) currently get a lot more federal funds than states that didn’t (mostly red). The Graham/Cassidy bill evens that out, so the mostly red states that protested Obamacare would be rewarded with tons more money, and blue states would be punished. Republican Senator Rand Paul, who’s opposing the bill, is pretty clear-headed about it: “Really, when you look at how it reshuffles it, it does it just to take money from the Democrat states and give it to Republican states.’’ (Interestingly, both Paul and Cassidy, the bill’s co-author, are physicians).

While that seems like a clever ploy to get Republican votes, it also creams some red states that need their Republican Senators to vote for it.  Ohio, Arizona and West Virginia, which all embraced Medicaid expansion, stand to lose billions.

Best Hope To Head It Off? If A Bipartisan Effort Already Underway Makes Some Real Headway Real Soon

Axios reporting Democratic Senator Patty Murray is willing to let states have more leeway to introduce their own plans and rules in order to move bipartisan health care talks ahead. She’s been working with Senate HELP (the “H” stands for “Health”) Committee Chair Lamar Alexander on a plan to improve Obamacare.

Bottom line: an attractive bipartisan alternative coming from this committee is absolutely the “best bet” to persuade Republican Senators to withhold support for Graham/Cassidy. After all, the majority of Americans say they now support a bipartisan health care solution.

Senators Patty Murray (D) Washington & Lamar Alexander (R) Tennessee

Meantime, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says he’ll try to form a procedural blockade, making it as hard as possible for the bill to pass through the Senate by slowing it down as much as he can. Could this ultimately kill the bill? No. Still, Democrats should make as much noise as they can and get in the way as much as they can. Because, as we’ve said this thing’ll move fast if it’s got the votes.

There Is Some Reason To Be Optimistic (If You’re Rooting For It To Fail)

Republicans know if they pass it, they will own it.

Rand Paul put it best in a Fox News opinion piece explaining why he won’t vote for it: “I know many of my colleagues are getting desperate to say they “did something,” and I can sympathize with that. But….I’m worried about what happens when premiums continue to go up double digits (and they will). I’m worried about what happens when the system continues its downward spiral, but this time it is “GOP/TrumpCare” that gets blamed. And they will.”

Senator Rand Paul (R) Kentucky

Opposition From An Unprecedented Number Of Patient Groups

16 patient and provider groups led by the American Heart Association last night came out in opposition to Graham/Cassidy and pointedly in favor of the bipartisan efforts mentioned above.

While patients may not like the new proposal, it is likely to be a boon for big for-profit health insurers.

Editorial: Why Didn’t Mainstream Media Take This Story Seriously Until Today?

First line in the New York Times: “Congressional efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act sprang back to life on Monday…” Really? Then how did readers of The Chaos Report know about it as far back as August 1st? To be fair, we’ve only been discussing the Graham/Cassidy bill as a serious threat since September 7th. Still, that’s more than 10 days ago! So, “sprang back to life”?! Really?

Don’t get us wrong, the New York Times, Washington Post, et al., have great, fearless reporters. They are far more brilliant than we are. Then how did they not see this coming until today, yet we (and Vox too, to its credit) did? That’s just the problem.

To us, it was simple: Republicans were mortified they didn’t pass “Repeal and Replace.” And Trump made it very clear he’d be willing to sign any piece of garbage Congress puts in front of him (and then call it “great”). And of course, the time factor (as we discuss above). So why not take another run at it? Forget that McConnell didn’t like it, that Cornyn said we’d moved into bipartisan territory; that was just blather and noise.

Trumpeting this last-resort of a bill is not a typical move. It has as much to do with emotion as politics. But these are not “typical” times. Almost nothing fits into expected patterns. Except the way reporters from major news organizations handled the story. (We are not suggesting any kind of media conspiracy).

Just that some of the same reporters who regarded this final attempt to resurrect health care as a “joke”, previously wrote about how Trump would invariably “pivot” and become a grown-up, and before that, about how Trump had no shot at winning in the first place. And now, if this bill does pass, they’ll be writing post-game analyses with a lot of words like “surprise”, “last minute” and “blindsided” when it was actually none of that. 

So why do great reporters keep making the same underestimations over and over? Is it arrogance? Fear of not being able to make sense of things anymore? An unflinching belief even today Trump’s victory was a total fluke? (It wasn’t). We think it’s because for whatever reason, they’re not listening. They are like a city-slicker in an old Western movie with his nose in his maps, failing to see the footprints, or hear the approaching hoof beats…

And that’s the only way this problem gets solved: by listening. In a slightly different context, when Steve Bannon said the media should just “listen for a while”, he was right. Because there are many messages coming through from many places that our finest reporters sometimes still refuse to entertain or understand.

Lordy, There Are Tapes

Paul Manafort may have only become Trump’s Campaign Chairman because he also lived in Trump Tower. He was eventually replaced by Steve Bannon, after questions started cropping up about Manafort’s ties to Ukraine and Russia.

Now, CNN reports warrants were issued to wiretap Paul Manafort twice. Once long before Manafort worked for Trump’s campaign. The second may have still been in place this year.

Separately, the New York Times reports federal prosecutors told Manafort they plan to indict him. We’ve all seen enough Law and Order to know that telling someone they’re about to be indicted doesn’t necessarily mean they’re about to be indicted. It could also be a signal to others out there who fear Manafort’s got damaging info on them, to come in and cut deals before deals are off the table.

Former Trump Campaign Chief Paul Manafort

Defense Secretary Mattis Says There Are Ways To Take Military Action Against North Korea Without Threatening South Korea

But he won’t say what they are. Some speculate he’s talking about intercepting and shooting down a North Korean missile, although that could still provoke a retaliatory move by Kim Jong-un. Or a cyber attack. Or something highly targeted. Mattis wouldn’t even give a hint. When asked if there were military options that would not seriously put Seoul in danger, he replied: “Yes, there are. But I will not go into details”.

President Trump’s United Nation’s General Assembly speech later today is expected to focus on North Korea and Iran.