Something extraordinary happened last week in the House of Representatives when the American Health Care Act passed by just two votes. Politicians were willing to push aside the concerns of their constituency in order to cast a vote on purely political grounds.
It did not matter that version 2.0 of the AHCA went further to take away protections from millions of vulnerable Americans than its beta-version, or even that most Americans wanted to keep the Affordable Care Act and fix it (61 percent) vs. repeal and replace it (37 percent).
The only thing that seemed to matter to this newly empowered group of extremist Republican lawmakers was that they hold strong to an ideological position that health care is just another commodity to be bought and sold and that the free market is the real cure-all. If people actually get hurt in the process, well that’s the price these politicians are happy to pay.
Our representative in the U.S. Congress, Randy Weber, doesn’t believe that anyone in his district would lose health insurance or pay higher premiums under the proposed legislation. This is an astounding position to take given the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that 24 million people would lose health insurance and that premiums would go up for many, especially older and sicker, Americans.
This was before the bill stripped away additional insurance protections, giving states the power to allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions and to dilute the services they actually cover. We are left to surmise that, either Weber values his “alternative facts” more than the real ones, or he is willing to lie to his constituents about what he voted for and why he voted for it.
But, here’s the good news. First, there’s no chance that anything resembling the House version of AHCA will ever be passed in the Senate. Second, come November 2018, we the people will have the opportunity to hold our representatives accountable for their reckless decisions and vote them out of office. Third, there is a solution to this whole health care mess, and even President Trump thinks it’s great!
That solution is the oft-misunderstood, unfairly maligned single-payer universal health care. The United States is one of the only major, industrialized countries in the world not to have universal health care. The limited versions we do have, Medicare and Medicaid, are more cost-efficient than private insurance. The Commonwealth Fund found the United States to rank dead last among a group of 11 industrialized nations in health care efficiency and in the middle of the pack on health care outcomes.
Who ranked first? The United Kingdom, which has single-payer universal health care. We need to start coming around to the idea that health care is a human right, not a commodity or a political poker chip. I think most Americans really believe this to be the case. We can start the process by kicking out our oblivious representatives from the halls of Congress, not 24 million people from the rolls of health insurance.