Littwin: Paul Ryan and the Trumpcare lesson in how to be honest about dishonesty
March 12, 2017
Let's give Paul Ryan and his Trumpcare team a little credit. Sure, they're trying to pull a fast one on us with the jury-rigged, sure-to-fail replacement for Obamacare.
But at least they're being honest about it. In their way.
I mean, when you don't have public hearings. And when the committee hearings you do have take place in the middle of the night. And when you write up the bill before the Ryan-appointed head of the Congressional Budget Office can even deliver a score on it — what it costs, what it will mean for the deficit and, most important, how many people will lose their insurance because of it — it's all pretty clear.
They're being as honest as possible about their dishonesty. They're telling you up front that they have every intention of getting this thing out of the way before people even know why they should object to it. And so, when you have very conservative Sen. Tom Cotton telling the House to slow down and start over — tweeting: "Get it right, don't get it fast" — the game is over, if you don't count the fact that we're still being played.
Look, there are many reasons to oppose Trumpcare. But there are even more reasons not to trust anything its supporters tell you about it.
We begin with the Trumpian promises, which you can always discount, or maybe you still think Mexico will pay for the border wall. (Did you see Cory Gardner go roguish and say the wall was a bad idea? Maybe, just maybe, he will have the nerve to oppose Trumpcare.) Anyway, Trump said his replacement plan would be terrific and it would cover everyone and he promised more coverage for less. That's when he wasn't tweeting that Obama was wiretapping his phone.
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No one believed any of that anyway — not least because much of it is impossible — but when it turns out that the bill cuts taxes for the rich and makes insurance less affordable for the poor, you'd think (anyone would think) they must have gotten something backward.
They didn't. They put together a bill, as Ezra Klein points out, that has no idea what it's trying to accomplish other than to be a bill that wouldn't be Obamacare.
It's a bill, as experts from all parts of the health care world point out, that keeps the much-maligned Obamacare structure in place but weakens it at every critical point.
It's a bill that gets rid of the punishing mandate (which was never punishing enough to really work) and replaces it with tax credits in such a way that the Brookings Institution, for one, says will cost 15 million people their health care coverage. Other estimates run as high as 20 million. The Congressional Budget Office should weigh in next week.
The bill's supporters tell you they believe in choice, but they neglect to say that the choice can be between health care and, you know, food. The plan hits hardest those who will lose their Medicaid and the working poor in the years before they're eligible for Medicare. That's why the American Medical Association opposes it and the AARP opposes it and hospital groups oppose it and basically anyone that has anything to do with health care opposes it.
But then there's another reason you should be skeptical of the bill — besides the one about defunding Planned Parenthood, which is in there because, as one pundit noted, apparently all GOP-sponsored bills must defund Planned Parenthood — and that's because at least two congressmen have slipped and told their version of the truth. Warning: It may not match yours.
We'll go with the less offensive one first. That's from Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz, who made the infamous iPhone analogy, apparently an updated reworking of Cadillacs and welfare queens. Chaffetz said, as you might guess, that the Trumpcare plan is all about choice and the choice that some low-income people must make is between "getting that new iPhone that they just love" or investing in health care.
Over at the Washington Post's Wonkblog, they broke that down. Something like 50 percent of us get a new smart phone every two years. Wonkblog used the most expensive iPhone for comparison, which checks it at about $800. Two years of no-bells-or-whistles, individual health care runs you somewhere over $9,000, and that's if you don't have to worry about deductibles, which, on this kind of plan, run about $4,000 a year. In other words, we're talking a lot of iPhones and not a real choice.
But Chaffetz can't compare to Kansas congressman Roger Marshall, who is a doctor and a bonafide member of the GOP Doctors Caucus. When asked by a health care website called STAT about Medicaid and its Obamacare expansion, he had this to say: "Just like Jesus said, 'The poor will always be with us.' There is a group of people that just don't want health care and aren't going to take care of themselves."
When STAT pressed him on that, he said, "Just, like, homeless people … I think just morally, spiritually, socially, (some people) just don't want health care."
Marshall would later release a statement saying that his comments had been misinterpreted. But I think we know exactly what he meant. He doesn't understand why we should go out of our way to provide health care to poor people when, he says, they don't even want it. Honestly, do you wonder why he supports Trumpcare?
Mike Littwin runs Sundays in The Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, he currently writes for ColoradoIndependent.com.