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Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Work the eye

by Tom Sullivan

Anthony Cordero at Muay Thai Championship Boxing Match. Photo by David Maiolo via Creative Commons.

There is safety in numbers, Republicans found yesterday. The Congressional Budget Office assessment late Monday that the GOP Senate's "Better" Obamacare replacement plan would take coverage from 22 million Americans allowed Republican lawmakers skittish about the bill's unpopularity to excuse themselves from voting for it. Now it wasn't only Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Dean Heller (Nevada). More of their colleagues joined them, bringing the "no" count to nine. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell beat a strategic retreat, announcing he would delay any vote until after the July 4th recess.

Despite having run on repealing Obamacare, the New York Times reports President Trump appeared neither to care one way or another nor to understand what is actually in the bill:

Until Tuesday’s meeting at the White House, Mr. Trump had spoken with only a few members of the Senate, according to an administration official. The pace was nothing like the dozens of calls he made to help pass the House’s health bill, aides said.

A senator who supports the bill left the meeting at the White House with a sense that the president did not have a grasp of some basic elements of the Senate plan — and seemed especially confused when a moderate Republican complained that opponents of the bill would cast it as a massive tax break for the wealthy, according to an aide who received a detailed readout of the exchange.

Mr. Trump said he planned to tackle tax reform later, ignoring the repeal’s tax implications, the staff member added.
"Obamacare is a total disaster. It's melting down as we speak," Trump again told Republican leaders gathered at the White House. Nevertheless, he continued, "This will be great if we get it done. And if we don't get it done, it's just going to be something that we're not going to like. And that's okay, and I understand that very well."

With that kind of enthusiasm, Trump-the-Closer won't even win the set of steak knives for his well-done meat.

But Mitch McConnell is a closer and he'll be back after the recess. More time “could be good and it could be bad,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) told reporters. Slate's Jim Newell paints the outlines of a post-recess agreement:

Take the concerns of two moderate holdouts. Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia released a joint statement after the vote was delayed demanding changes. “The Senate draft before us includes some promising changes to reduce premiums in the individual insurance market,” Portman’s statement read, “but I continue to have real concerns about the Medicaid policies in this bill, especially those that impact drug treatment at a time when Ohio is facing an opioid epidemic.” Moore had similar concerns, arguing that the bill “as drafted” does “not ensure access to affordable health care in West Virginia, does not do enough to combat the opioid epidemic that is devastating my state, cuts traditional Medicaid too deeply, and harms rural health care providers."

If only there was some massive pool of money out there that could alleviate some of their fears. Indeed, there is! The CBO found that the bill would save the government $321 billion—or $188 billion more than budget rules require it to save. One might read Portman and Capito’s statements as asking that all of that money be used to soften the long-term Medicaid cuts and significantly increase the funds available to combat the opioid crisis.

The conservative holdouts, meanwhile, could be granted more of the market reforms they want—like, say, state waivers for the Affordable Care Act’s community rating rules, which bar insurers from charging sicker people more. “We can rewrite our bill to bring down the price working families pay for health insurance—while still protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions,” Sen. Mike Lee said in a statement. In other words: Deregulate, and allow those with pre-existing conditions to take their rightful place in high-risk pools.
There is still plenty of spreading-around money McConnell can and will deploy, and more room in which to wiggle.

The Denver Post reports:
Organizers at numerous “Resistance” groups, chastened by their premature celebrations after the House’s repeal push seemed to stall, said that they’d use the recess to ramp up public pressure on Republicans. CREDO Action, which had organized 45,000 phone calls to Senate offices, planned to increase that number when senators went home. NARAL, Planned Parenthood, MoveOn and Daily Action were organizing their own phone banks, while Indivisible groups were organizing visits – and perhaps sit-ins – at local offices.

All of that would supplement under-the-radar but attention-grabbing TV ad campaigns from AARP, Protect Our Care and other progressive and industry groups. The goal, said activists, is to educate voters and break through to local media, which had not often put the development of the Senate bill on front pages or newscasts.
The Obamacare repeal has been cut over the eye. Don't let your guard down. Keep punching and work the eye.