To the Honorable Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso:
I know both of you are going to be extremely busy soon when your working group on the Senate’s Trumpcare bill begins, but I’d like to put in my two cents about what you should consider as you help create what will be one of the most important healthcare bills in many years.
Since you won’t attend any town hall meetings, I’m sure you’re getting a lot of emails and phone calls from constituents who want to remind you what is important to Wyoming residents. Despite what Rep. Paul Labrador (R-Idaho) outrageously told his town hall meeting last week, people do die because they lack access to health care. I hope you begin your discussions with that fundamental premise in mind. Frankly, if you don’t, whatever you produce will be drivel.
Unlike your House counterparts, who passed a wretched bill they refused to hold public meetings about — and many didn’t even bother to read — you need to begin telling Americans the truth about the hasty, horrible legislation they celebrated at the White House “victory” garden party.
Republican representatives were embarrassed when it became obvious they voted more than 50 times over seven years to repeal Obamacare without offering an alternative. But the lies they told about what their American Health Care Act actually does need to be exposed.
To paraphrase Paul Simon, you are both in a position to have the nation turn its lonely eyes to you for leadership on this issue. Don’t start by ignoring the House’s work and writing your own bill. The spin the House and President Donald Trump put on the AHCA was harder to hit than a Randy Johnson curveball.
Don’t imitate the House
Tell people you won’t imitate the House by throwing millions of people off health insurance rolls. The first Trumpcare bill was projected to cause 24 million to lose their insurance over 10 years and version 2.0 will likely cause even more damage.
The biggest “pants on fire” lie the House told is that insurance companies won’t refuse to cover a “pre-existing” health condition. Republicans will allow states to waive certain mandates and let insurers price sick people out of the market. They added $8 billion, about $200 billion short of keeping the system from collapsing.
Representatives spread the lie that everyone with pre-existing conditions will be covered. Your colleague, Rep. Liz Cheney, said Republicans kept their promise and healthcare access for the sickest Americans would be guaranteed. Please set her straight.
I can easily see Wyoming officials being among the first to seek the waiver and throw thousands of sick residents under the bus. How do I know? Look at how the Legislature kept rejecting Medicaid expansion that would have insured the working poor, some of our most vulnerable people. Do you seriously expect these same state lawmakers to now go to bat for the same people?
Speaking of Medicaid, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the House bill would cut $880 billion from Medicaid over the next decade. Yet House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and others assured us no one would lose Medicaid coverage. It’s in the bill that the states who expanded Medicaid under Obamacare will see that life-saving action end.
The Legislature refused Medicaid expansion because GOP members were afraid the federal government would renege on its funding commitment and leave states in the lurch. I’m sorry, but they can’t pat themselves on the back for their prediction coming true when it’s their own party that wants to welch on the federal promise.
Senators, you simply can’t turn out the lights on Medicaid. You represent thousands who depend on the program for their survival, and the president you give your unwavering support to promised he wouldn’t touch Medicaid. Trump tweeted: “The healthcare plan is on its way. Will have much lower premiums & deductibles while at the same time taking care of pre-existing conditions!” It’s impossible to simultaneously deliver all three.
Trump has repeatedly called Obama’s healthcare plan (and anything else he’s done) a disaster that is in a death spiral. Ryan says it needs “to be put out of its misery for the good of the country.”
Improve what we have
Obamacare, far from a perfect system, doesn’t need to be repealed and replaced. It needs to be improved. The Kaiser Family Foundation said the House’s plan would raise average deductibles by $1,550. The CBO says the bill would cover an average of 65 percent of a person’s medical costs. Obamacare has an average actuarial value of 72 percent.
What the House approved isn’t a healthcare plan at all. It’s the foundation for a plan to provide huge tax cuts to the very wealthy. It can’t be implemented unless the feds make extreme cuts to Obamacare spending.
Are you wearing blinders that keep you from seeing that when the super-rich are given the chance to invest money from massive tax cuts into new jobs, they put it in the bank instead? Often offshore, so they can avoid paying taxes altogether.
You have a rare chance to make a huge contribution to a sector that accounts for one-sixth of the economy. I don’t envy you the frustration and criticism guaranteed to make your lives considerably less enjoyable.
But you both signed up for this public service. With all due respect, I doubt we agree on a single major issue. That’s perfectly acceptable because in a democracy the politicians we elect generally reflect the views of voters who put them in office.
You represent all of us, though, and I’ve talked to many people frustrated by your rejection of everything that doesn’t come from the far-right. They think Trump is an embarrassment, and not someone we want our congressional delegation to march with in lock-step.
I don’t believe that when you are in Wyoming you don’t have time to hold a town meeting and listen to us. You can do better than form letters stating your opinions but no comment at all about our concerns. If you can do nothing more, at least give us the respect to argue with us.
WyoFile is a nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.
Kerry Drake is a veteran Wyoming journalist, and a contributor to WyoHistory.org. He also moderates the WyPols blog. He has more than 30 years experience at the Wyoming Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune as a reporter, editor and editorial writer. He lives in Casper.