It is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind that is the Russia investigation. From Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election to Trump’s many tweets to the recent testimonies from both former F.B.I. Director James Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Washington seems to be completely engulfed in this scandal. However, there is another extremely important issue being silently worked on behind closed doors in the Capital: the Republican Healthcare reform. In a room on Capital Hill, 13 male senators are currently drafting a new Republican health care bill, and the public is being kept purposely out of it.
And yes, I can’t be sure that it’s going to be terrible, but all reports suggest that it is going to leave millions of Americans without health insurance, so it is probably going to be a terrible bill.
These Senators are currently working on finishing the Senate version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) that the House Republicans passed earlier this year. They have vowed to change the unpopular AHCA, which was passed by House Republicans with the strong support of President Trump but only has the support of 17% of U.S. voters, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released on Jun. 8, 2017. Trump, who pushed hard for the bill and celebrated its passing in the Rose Garden surrounded by Republican House members, now seems to have realized how unpopular and bad the House bill is. CNN has reported that he called the AHCA “mean” and wants senators to “add more money to the bill.” This is a good thing and might prompt the Senate to make it easier for poor people to get health care or ensure that people with pre-existing conditions can get healthcare at a reasonable price, but this is by no way a certainty.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) would leave 23 million people uninsured by 2026 than if Obamacare were to remain intact. That is 3 million more than the number of people that live in the state of Florida or more people than live in Delaware, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan together. Even if Senate Republicans were to add more money to the bill so that 10 million fewer people would be uninsured by 2026, that would still leave 13 million people uninsured. That is still more people than live in the state of Pennsylvania. The Senate Republicans are going to have to make some major changes to significantly improve this bill.
It does not look like the Senate is making those big changes to the AHCA as the Senate bill is reportedly going to include funding cuts to Medicaid that would make it very hard for poor to near-poor Americans to afford health care, according to Aviva Aron-Dine at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The cuts look a lot like the AHCA, which was estimated to cut 880 million dollars from the Medicaid program, a federal-state program that provides health care for poor and disabled Americans who have historically had a hard time affording health care. The only difference might be that the Senates bill would implement the cuts slower, however, the result would still be Americans losing their health care.
The AHCA also expanded what constitutes as a pre-existing condition so that pregnancy, anxiety disorders, anorexia, cancer, diabetes, being born with a heart disease and being a rape survivor are all factors that could make the cost of health insurance for you incredibly high.
These are only reports of what the plan would look like since it is impossible to really know what the Senate bill will look like because it is being crafted in secret by a handful of Republican senators with absolutely no transparency. Republican senators are not planning on holding any hearings before the vote on the bill in stark contrast to the crafting of Obamacare during which there were multiple public hearings, it was reviewed by the Senate Heath Committee for 13 days, as well as the Senate Finance Committee for eight days and the Republicans were allowed to not only look at the bill but also add amendments to it.
Why do Senate Republicans not want the public to see what their bill looks like? Probably for the same reason that House Republicans didn’t want the public to know how many people the CBO estimated would be left uninsured by their bill—they know that the public is going to disapprove of the bill. That is why House Republicans passed the AHCA before Congress went on recess and the House Republicans went home to their home states where they faced massive protests from their constituents. That is why Senate Republicans are rushing to get their version of the bill done before July 4th, when they go back to their constituents. They know that the bill will be massively unpopular and don’t want to have to face their angry constituents who are scared that their health care will be taken away from them.
The secrecy surrounding Republican health care reform has been criticized by many, for example, Senator Chuck Schumer who said “Republicans don’t want the American people to see the bill. They are so ashamed of their health care plan, they want to pass it in the dead of night.”