No way to govern

The House of Representatives narrowly passed legislation Thursday to repeal and replace Obamacare with hardly any debate on the matter and with no data on the bill’s fiscal impact or how it affects people’s health-care coverage.

Talk about flying blind. It’s reminiscent of Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s infamous quote about Obamacare: “... we have to pass the (health care) bill so that you can find out what’s in it….”

Obamacare passed without a single Republican vote. Republicans who angrily contended that legislation was rammed through Congress — unilaterally and in the dark — are on that very path.

Why do congressional lawmakers persist with hasty bills that make a bad health-care situation even worse?

As long as politicians keep treating health-care as a political wedge rather than a policy challenge, we’re never going to see any meaningful changes to make it accessible and affordable.

We’re just see-sawing back and forth between partisan extremes as Republicans and Democrats take turns being in charge. Until both sides take off the armor and make an honest effort to work together for a middle-ground solution, we’re either headed toward socialized medicine or defaulting back to the days when insurance companies could discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions.

With Thursday’s vote, we’re tilting toward the latter. Critics were quick to point out the bill’s numerous shortcomings. For example, states can get waivers exempting insurers from providing consumers with required coverage of specified health services, including hospital and outpatient care, pregnancy and mental health treatment.

But it’s hardly worth debating the merits of the bill. Alexander Bolton of “The Hill” reported Thursday that Republican senators say they don’t see a way to get healthcare reform over the finish line.

If establishing political cover was the sole intent of the bill, it’s still a risky gamble. House Republicans made good on a campaign pledge to repeal Obamacare, but at what cost?

A good percentage of those who voted for Trump did so with serious misgivings. They were willing to look past his oafish ways if he could deliver on a promise to repeal Obamacare and replace it with “something terrific” that “covers everyone.”

But this isn’t terrific. Citing research from Avalere Health, Forbes contributor Bruce Jaspen reported that just 5 percent of Americans with preexisting conditions who currently have individual coverage will benefit from funds written into the American Health Care Act, which Republicans passed by a vote of 217-213.

The most recent Congressional Budget Office estimate of a previous version of the GOP bill says that 24 million fewer Americans would have coverage under the American Health Care Act.

So, as it becomes clear to Trump voters that they stand to lose insurance or pay more for coverage if they have pre-existing conditions, the dominoes are lining up for a major reckoning.

This is lunacy. If lawmakers put as much time and effort into improving Obamacare as they put into the political calculus of dismantling it, maybe we’d get somewhere.

Instead, House members are on the hook for a bill so distasteful that a GOP Senate may not even pass it. Then what? Hopefully, our senators will take a breath, reach across the aisle and craft something that looks more like sensible policy and less like a political axe.


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