It’s tempting to react to Thursday’s House passage of a new health care bill with frustration.
After just a few hours of debate, House Republicans — without hearings, without an updated Congressional Budget Office analysis — passed a measure they said would “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.
The vote was 217 to 213. Every Republican member from Kansas and Missouri voted yes, including Reps. Kevin Yoder, Sam Graves, Vicky Hartzler and Lynn Jenkins.
But we shouldn’t get angry. We should use the House bill as a guidepost, because the GOP’s views about your health care are now crystal clear:
▪ States should decide what your insurance policy covers. In a few years, politicians who think like Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback will be able to decide if your policy must cover maternity care, emergency room visits or mental health care.
We can guess what they’ll choose. You may be able get cheaper insurance but with far less coverage, wildly high deductibles and flat exclusions for some types of care. The GOP is fine with that.
▪ The poor don’t deserve quality health care. The measure cuts nearly $900 billion from Medicaid over the next 10 years and turns it into a block grant for states to spend as they wish.
Eventually, 24 million fewer Americans will have health insurance. The GOP is fine with that.
▪ Sick people will pay more for insurance. Republicans may claim patients with pre-existing conditions like diabetes and cancer can still get coverage, but premiums for those patients will rise dramatically.
The bill anticipates states establishing “high-risk pools” for the sickest people. The pools will be underfunded, complicated, risky and virtually useless.
Perhaps Republicans should read the bill to know what’s in it.
▪ There is an individual mandate by another name. You don’t have to carry insurance, but if you ever lose it — you’re laid off or your business closes or you drop from the workforce — you’ll have to pay a 30 percent surcharge to get a new policy.
▪ Wealthy Americans deserve a tax cut. The bill cuts taxes on wealthy Americans by $300 billion over 10 years, according to the New York Times. This may be the only part of the measure that isn’t a surprise.
We hope and expect the Senate to take a more careful approach. They could start by listening to their constituents — House members have ducked most contact with voters, and we were told some weren’t answering their phones this week.
We’d also like President Donald Trump to help. Unfortunately, he appears to have no idea what this bill will do.
Senators of good faith can look for compromise. If the essential health care benefits in Obamacare are too costly, adjust them. But don’t tell Kansans and Missourians they get less coverage than patients in New York or California.
Medicaid is critical for millions of Americans. Trump promised it wouldn’t be cut. Hold him to it.
If private companies are dropping from the Obamacare exchanges, and they are, offer to replace them with Medicare. That would make health insurance available to every American who wants it. Pay for it by restoring taxes on high earners.
Obamacare is far from perfect, and health care is extraordinarily complex. The Senate should take the time to carefully consider improvements, then offer them to the American people.
Or it could rush through a half-baked, ill-considered, fundamentally flawed bill — just like the House did Thursday.