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Sunday, July 16, 2017


Never give a sucker an even break

by Tom Sullivan

Still from The Hustler.

Or Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) office announced last night he had undergone surgery Friday to remove a blood clot above his left eye:

“Senator McCain received excellent treatment at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix, and appreciates the tremendous professionalism and care by its doctors and staff. He is in good spirits and recovering comfortably at home with his family. On the advice of his doctors, Senator McCain will be recovering in Arizona next week.”
Meaning Senate Republicans' procedure to remove Medicaid from millions of lesser-insured Americans has been put on a waiting list. From The Hill:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Saturday night that Senate consideration of legislation repealing and replacing ObamaCare will be delayed while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) recovers from surgery.

McCain had announced earlier on Saturday that he would not be in the Senate next week, depriving Republicans of a key vote.

Without McCain, Senate Republicans likely would not have had the 50 votes necessary to advance the legislation.
Poor Mitch. A further delay will allow opponents more time to pressure fence-sitting GOP senators to vote against repeal. (McCain was not counted among them.) Recovering from surgery outside the crucible of the Beltway, Sen. McCain might even have time to contemplate what the loss of care might mean for his fellow Americans.
McCain's absence is a blow to McConnell's chances of repealing Obamacare. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Susan Collins (R-ME) quickly opposed the revised Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) unveiled last week, albeit for different reasons, leaving McConnell only 50 senators from his caucus to pass the bill (with Vice President Pence casting a tie-breaking vote). Any more defections would give other Republicans leave to break ranks, killing the wildly unpopular zombie bill until it rises once again.

The pressure mounting against the bill is enough to give McConnell a pain behind his left eye. In a rare joint letter sent Friday, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans urged Senate leaders to drop the “Consumer Freedom Option” added by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.* The provision would allow insurers to "refuse offering coverage to certain people, charge different rates based on age and gender," and to “cherry pick” only the healthy for customers. The plans Cruz would allow would not cover Obamacare's menu of essential health benefits. MSNBC's Chris Hayes derides such plans as worthless "subprime insurance." The insurers wrote McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), saying:
It is simply unworkable in any form and would undermine protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions, increase premiums and lead to widespread terminations of coverage for people currently enrolled in the individual market.
They conclude, "As a result, millions of more individuals will become uninsured."

The Washington Post's Aaron Blake observes that the Republican bill is "polling about as well as Vladimir Putin," yet why are they so determined to pass it? He asked Josh Holmes, a former McConnell staffer. Snap polling is less relevant than "a failure to address a conviction among the base of the Republican," Holmes believes. Plus, failure on repealing Obamacare could negatively impact other agenda items, although passing tax reform could soften the blow. But:
"... the seared memory of a disappointment this significant to the Republican base has a somewhat serious chance of forever damaging Republican political careers. Compounding this problem is the very real notion that without action, the insurance markets may collapse. If that happens and a bipartisan insurance bailout materializes, conservative base voters will never, ever forget it."
That Republican governors and legislatures around the country engineered the damage to the insurance markets by refusing the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare is not part of that career calculation. Nor is the impact on the lives of millions of Americans who might lose their coverage (or worse) if the BCRA passes. We hope Sen. McCain recovers well this week from his surgery, but perhaps he will take the down time to ponder the health of fellow Americans for whom he spent so many years in a North Vietnamese prison having his permanently damaged.

* "Freedom Freedom Option" must already have been taken.