By V. Susan Hutchinson
This week we learned that South Carolina’s longtime Republican senator, Lindsey O. Graham, discussed policy on the golf course with President Donald Trump.
Since when is the federal government like a corporation where deals are made on a putting green followed by a few laughs in the club house? Since Trump became president, that’s when.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is again being targeted by Trump, as Attorney General William P. Barr’s Justice Department asked a federal court this week to totally scuttle the law that provides coverage for more than 20 million Americans. If the Trump administration has its way, the health care coverage of millions of Americans would be jeopardized, including coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Graham has been leading the Republican charge in the Senate to kill the ACA, enacted during President Barack Obama’s administration, claiming that it is seriously flawed and is a “disaster,” in the words of his buddy, the president.
But, if you send Graham a message to complain about this latest attempt to revoke the ACA and tell him you are afraid you will be kicked off of coverage without anything to replace it, within 10 minutes you’ll get a stock form letter stating the ACA is failing and premiums are on the rise.
And he tells you over his automated signature “… I promise to always give your concerns the consideration they deserve”.
If it’s failing, why are millions signing up every year and insurance companies still making billion-dollar profits? And why did the Democratic-held House of Representatives just this week release its new health care bill that would address rising premiums and preserve pre-existing condition coverage, among its other provisions?
Graham preaches that a bipartisan deal needs to be established to avoid a healthcare crisis in America, but he is completely silent on the proposed House bill. And, he has demonstrated during the Trump presidency that he is out for blood and has no interest in compromise.
Neither Graham nor Trump want to build upon and improve the law that’s already in place, largely because it was a signature achievement of President Obama.
Instead, they want to tear it all down and start from scratch. Graham’s proposal to provide states with block grants as a replacement for the ACA, which he touts in his canned response to emails, has failed to generate support and would be a weak and virtually useless solution anyway.
Graham wants to dole out money to the states and make them responsible for determining how people get coverage. There is no advantage to the patient in this patchwork plan; it is just the federal government washing its hands of a problem that won’t go away.
The Party of Healthcare?
Trump wants the GOP to be the “party of healthcare” going into 2020, but has no roadmap to get there. Lindsey Graham is in full support — after all, he was whispering just that in Trump’s ear while playing golf at Trump’s private golf club, Mar-a-Lago, in Florida.
The biggest problem is the GOP can’t decide who should draft a new policy. Trump wants Congress to do it and Republicans want the White House to put it together. Guess they realize that no matter what they come up with, Trump will rip it to shreds anyway. After all, it’s his way or the highway.
All of this is happening while Americans who are covered by the ACA sit on the edge of their seats consumed with worry.
If replacing the current healthcare policy with a better one is so important, why wasn’t it done when the GOP held the House, Senate and Presidency? Why is it only trotted out now when key Republicans, like Graham, are up for re-election?
The answer: because Lindsey Graham, like his GOP colleagues, only cares about using it to get re-elected.
They care nothing about the over 20 million people covered by the ACA, the tens of millions covered under Medicaid or seniors over 65 covered through Medicare and Medicare Advantage.
An attempt to repeal and replace the ACA was initiated in 2018 and was shut down in Congress by both Democrats and Republicans. The key no vote was made by Graham’s dear friend the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
There was a positive result of this last failure though; it fired people up to vote and the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives forcing Trump, Graham and the rest of the GOP to take notice. Now, they are targeting the ACA again as a political tool to take control. What an idea!
Graham discovered that his polling numbers went up significantly when he began siding with Trump on issues. And what better issue to use than the biggest one of all for 2020? And, hey, if it gets them re-elected, whether it works or not, wouldn’t that be great?
For them, not us.
What Graham doesn’t understand is that nothing works perfectly right out of the gate. The ACA didn’t. It needed a few years to work out some kinks and is still in need of improvement, especially since Trump successfully eliminated the ACA mandate so there is no longer a penalty for not having health insurance.
The result of removing the mandate was that premiums went up and signups went down because healthy people preferred to not have insurance since they no longer faced a penalty. Basically, Graham is saying one of the big problems with the ACA is high premiums. But Trump was directly responsible for that happening.
It also caused 20 GOP held states and two other people to file a lawsuit in Texas in February 2018 to try to destroy the ACA. In the case Texas v Azar the mandate was declared unconstitutional, which renders the rest of the ACA invalid. Unless that is overturned by the Supreme Court.
Which brings us to what happened this week.
Lindsey Graham wants us to believe that he has the magic answer to a better healthcare policy. He has been around the Senate for over 20 years, most recently with the GOP controlling both houses of Congress and the Presidency. So why couldn’t he get his plan enacted? And why is it suddenly so urgent to sort this out before 2020?
Because it’s all about being re-elected, not what is best for Americans.
We need to vote out Lindsey Graham, Trump and their blundering GOP colleagues in 2020 before they systematically strip Americans of our right to affordable healthcare and people begin dying because of their self-interests.
Susan Hutchinson is retired from the clinical diagnostics industry and now spends her time working with HCDP to turn South Carolina blue. She currently has healthcare coverage through the ACA.