Donald Trump, January 15, 2017: “We’re going to have insurance for everybody.”
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, March 13, 2017: The House Republican health plan (hailed by Donald Trump as “wonderful”) will cause 14 million Americans to lose their insurance in 2018, and 24 million to lose their insurance by 2026.
One of these days or weeks or months, the suckered Trump electorate will hopefully wake up to the indisputable fact that it has been royally conned, just like the students of Trump University. But unless or until that realization sinks in, we denizens of the real world are tasked with tracking the lies and injustices that pass for governance in this shameful era. The current health care phantasmagoria is Exhibit A.
I never thought it’d be possible to write a dramatic story about the Congressional Budget Office, but these are not normal times. The CBO – headed by an economist who was handpicked by House Republicans (including two House Republicans who’ve joined the Trump team, budget director Mike Mulvaney and health secretary Tom Price) – shredded the Republican health care plan yesterday in a dryly devastating report that tracked the human casualties clear into the next decade. Which sounds about right, since we’re talking here about a Republican health plan.
The CBO’s projections jibe with analyses undertaken by the free and independent press. The gist is that the GOP’s replace-Obamacare plan would make coverage too costly for a broad swath of modest-income and downscale Americans (most notably red-state Trump voters) who get coverage now. That’s because the GOP’s first priority is to spend a heckuva lot less money by slashing the current federal subsidies and Medicaid outlays.
In 2018 alone, says the CBO, “14 million more people would be uninsured under the legislation than under current (Obamacare) law.” Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal crunched the Republican numbers and showed us why. The Journal found that a 62-year-old Nebraskan earning $18,000 a year and currently paying $760 out of pocket for annual coverage would instead be compelled to pay $20,000 out of pocket for annual coverage.
The Trump team clearly sensed that bad publicity was in the offing. Over the weekend, in a lame effort to preempt the impending CBO report, health secretary Price insisted: “We don’t believe that individuals will lose coverage at all.” Budget director Mulvaney even contended that the CBO shouldn’t get involved at all, that “estimating the impact of a bill of this size probably isn’t the best use of their time” – which was hilarious, because gauging the cost and consequences of a major bill is precisely what the CBO is mandated to do.
Then, yesterday, after the CBO concluded that tens of millions would lose coverage, Price insisted that the report was all wrong. But given this lying regime’s addiction to alternative facts, I’m siding with the CBO.
Speaking of lies, Mulvaney actually said over the weekend that Obamacare was passed in 2009 without a single House hearing. (Praising the Republican bill, he said: “We already had two committee hearings, which I believe is two more than Obamacare had in the House.”) That’s a whopper worthy of Kellyanne Conway. Truth is, Obamacare weathered roughly 20 hearings in the House.
As an old friend of mine said the other day, “The whole country is now Trump University, except this time the victims can’t sue.” True that. But they can still vote.
Seriously, folks: If the Democrats can’t expose this blatant con to the ’18 midterm electorate, if they’re incapable of selling themselves as the party that protects people’s health coverage, then they should simply disband.
Trump and the Republicans have basically boxed themselves in. If they don’t deliver the long-promised death of Obamacare to their Obama-hating base – if, for instance, the more moderate Republican Senate stiffs the House ideologues and leaves Obamacare in place – then the Republicans base could stay home en masse in the ’18 midterms and precipitate a pro-Democratic “bloodbath.” (Trump uses that word, and Paul Ryan concurs.)
On the other hand, if Republicans do somehow enact a replacement law, signed by Trump, that causes millions of people to lose their coverage, an infuriated coalition of mobilized liberals and coverage-deprived Trumpkins could still precipitate a pro-Democratic bloodbath.
But wait, there’s a third scenario: If House Republicans vote to pass their draconian health plan, and it’s subsequently killed in the Senate (highly likely), House Republicans would still be forced to defend their votes in the ’18 midterms. Republican Senator Tom Cotton warned over the weekend: “If they vote for this bill, they’re going to put the House majority at risk…I would say to my friends in the House of Representatives with whom I serve, do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote.”
By the way, Trump tweets: “We are making great progress with healthcare…Republicans coming together to get job done.” We are shocked that Trump’s assessment doesn’t mesh with reality.