Sunday, June 25, 2017

Editorial: Bring out your dead. How did we get here?

We interrupt our usual farrago of old jokes (sorry, no refunds) to express a view on the pending bill to destroy guaranteed health care to provide giant tax cuts to the rich, now within an IV tube's breadth of passage into law.

By now you know the bill will cut $600,000,000,000 or more out of Medicaid and take away the protections that keep Americans from dying due to inability to pay for the health care they need.  As well-known Communist agitator Norm Ornstein noted in today's Atlantic post:
[T]he overwhelming majority of health-policy analysts and health providers say the bill is a walking disaster. It eviscerates Medicaid—a program widely misunderstood as simply insurance for poor people, but which uses most of its money for long-term care for the elderly, and basic protection for the disabled and mentally ill populations. The overall Medicaid cuts, while spread over a longer time frame, are more severe than the draconian House bill.
The McConnell bill removes the protection of lifetime and annual limits, meaning someone with a serious illness like cancer could be cut off in the middle of chemotherapy. It also fails the so-called “Kimmel test,” named for Jimmy Kimmel after he faced the horror of a newborn son born with a devastating heart ailment. With this bill, a newborn with a major problem requiring weeks in intensive care and multiple serious surgeries would pass both the annual and the lifetime limit within his or her first few months of life. And because the bill allows for insurers to charge much more to those with pre-existing conditions, a newborn who leaves the hospital without exceeding the lifetime limit might be unable to afford insurance for the rest of his or her life.
Libertarian Paradise, returning soon
How did we get here?  The one word answer (admittedly not a complete one): Republicans.  For 70 years one political party has tried repeatedly to insure more and more Americans; one political party has consistently opposed those efforts.  The opposition does business under the name of the Republican Party.

A large body of public health research has demonstrated conclusively that lack of health insurance is fatal.  According to researchers at one prestigious local institution,  “lack of health insurance causes 44,789 excess deaths annually.”  That institution is of course Cambridge Health Alliance.

But from 1948, when Harry Truman proposed national health insurance, to 2014, when President Obama's universal insurance scheme took effect, many millions were uninsured.  And 44,789 died every year (maybe fewer when the U.S. population was smaller – maybe only 25,000).  The point here is that Republicans were apparently A-OK with this result, because every Republican President, from the Angel of Bitburg, St. Ronald Reagan, through the Texas Chickenhawk, George W. Bush, relentlessly opposed universal health care.

St. Reagan in fact first gained political notoriety for a series of cornball speeches opposing Medicare on the grounds that protecting senior citizens from dying unnecessarily was an attack on “liberty.”  So it's not surprising that Republicans today intend to carry on the great traditions of their party by denying health care to new generations of the poor and sick.

What is surprising is that Republican hacks seeking readmission to the human race by trashing the current Grifter-in-Chief don't feel any need to answer for their past participation in the annual culling of 44,789 sick uninsured Americans.  Hello, Ana, David F., David B., Evan, and so many more; we see you, but we can't hear you.

Love oldies?  This one is making a comeback!
Speaking of the Contras' best friends, a guy we know was just starting a legal career in 1980 in Washington.  So shocked was he by Reagan's election against a backdrop of economic hardship and a fluffed hostage “crisis” that he vowed that if the union steelworkers and truckers who voted for ol' Ron thought they could do better under the Republicans than he could, they were welcome to try.

As the years went by, those union steelworkers and truckers lost their unions, their jobs, and their dignity.  Our young friend did indeed do better; in fact, he was able to stop worrying about earning a living around the time of his 60th birthday.

Good thing too, because he was diagnosed with Stage III cancer.  Fortunately, he had gold-plated albeit expensive health insurance and, by then living in Boston, access to some pretty high-powered health care institutions.  As a result, after multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and other efforts of treatment teams at Dana-Farber Cancer Center and the Massachusetts General and Brigham & Women's Hospitals, he seems to be doing OK.  As for the bill, of the six figure cost of treatment, he had to pay $389.

Now though his wife is eligible for Medicare and as a result he'll have to buy insurance on the Massachusetts exchange next year.  Massachusetts will remain a mandatory-insurance state, so the good news for him is that he'll be able to buy a policy, not cheaply, that will provide him with coverage for whatever lies ahead, free from exclusions and lifetime caps.

But what if he lived in Texas or Florida or any other state governed by the Republican plutocracy?  If Mitchcare becomes law, they will waive out of the system and our friend would be to use the fancy medical term, shit out of luck.  It turned out that he wasn't as invulnerable to Republican malfeasance as he thought.

The reality is no one is safe from the Republican assault on America.  We said earlier that the cause of this grim future was principally Republicans.  But not completely.  Let's do a little thought experiment.  What would happen to Mitchcare under President Hillary Clinton?  The question answers itself.

It also points the fickle finger of blame on anyone who did anything on Election Day other than vote for Hillary Clinton.  If you voted for Ethan's Crazy Mom or Aleppo Gary, you own a piece of this catastrophe.  If you stayed home because you didn't think there was any real difference between the two candidates, you do too.  And we don't want to hear from you now how justified you feel.  Just shut up and let the newly-uninsured die in peace.

–The Editors

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