If you had been listening exclusively to Republican propaganda for the past several months, you’d expect the long-delayed introduction of their Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill last week to be greeted with hosannas, especially by our friends the rightbloggers. But instead the American Health Care Act went off like a stink bomb and has been denounced by nearly everyone — including the AMA, AARP, and even some Republican Senators.
So conservatives had to go to Plan B — or, in some cases, Plan B-minus. Either they said they, too, were against the bill — not because it was too stingy like everyone said but because it was too generous; or they shrugged and told followers, look on the bright side, at least it’s a step in the right direction, i.e. destroying all hope of a sane national health care policy.
As anyone who has ever met a Republican would expect, the GOP’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) would take from the poor and give to the rich, strip coverage from millions of Americans, and reduce the quality of coverage from those lucky enough to keep it.
Congressional leaders and administration officials didn’t bother to deny this, but spun it as best they could, which was not very well at all — HHS Secretary Tom Price said “nobody will be worse off financially” (seeming to assume that insurance has no financial value), and Rep. Jason Chaffetz suggested anyone who was losing coverage could afford it by buying more “rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love.”
Some conservatives complained that AHCA gave too much to the poor and the sick, and bestowed upon it the derisive name “RINO care” after an extinct breed of Republican that, it is said, could pass a safety net without trying to shred it.
“Still an aspect of socialism,” said Sarah Palin. “Not a market-oriented plan,” said radio shouter Mark Levin. “…They have embraced the progressive agenda, and Barack Obama and the Democrats have won.”
Objectivist-Republican Senator Rand Paul was displeased that, instead getting only derisive laughter in exchange for their lost Obamacare subsidies, Americans would under the AHCA receive tax credits, which are still socialism. “A family that makes $30,000 a year could actually get $14,000 that they didn’t pay,” he gasped — fourteen grand that could have gone to a corporate donor!
At Conservative Review, Daniel Horowitz raged that the bill did not repeal “the mandated essential benefits” of Obamacare — which include emergency services, preventive examinations, eye care for children, prescription drugs, etc., though Horowitz seemed to think they meant “sex change operations” and “maternity care for men.”
Mainly the hardliners were angry that sick people would be covered and healthy people would pay for it — an essential feature of health insurance.
House Speaker and AHCA pitchman Paul Ryan tried to blunt this criticism by saying, he, too, couldn’t accept a healthcare system in which the fortunate helped the unfortunate: in a much-mocked PowerPoint presentation, Ryan complained that under Obamacare “young and healthy people are going to go into the market and pay for the older and sicker people. So the young healthy person’s going to be made to buy healthcare, and they’re gonna pay for the person who gets breast cancer in her 40s…” Can you imagine anything more unfair and — yes, I’ll say it — un-Christian?
Ryan proposed instead creating high-risk pools for the sickies, which didn’t work when when the feds last tried it as the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) program, perhaps because they didn’t clap hard enough for it.
Still, sociopaths across the nation complained that Republicans were still making healthy people who would never get sick pay for people who had been fated by a merciful Creator to suffer illness. “Who really wants to pay the health coverage of the 500 pound fat woman at home? I don’t,” said Cash McCall. “Who wants to pay for some reckless gayblade that comes down with HIV?”
Required by his exalted position to put it a classier way, David Harsanyi of The Federalist referred to the pre-Obamacare state in which millions of people were one misfortune away from chemo they couldn’t afford or medical bankruptcy as “an imaginary humanitarian crisis,” like flying saucers. Democrats created Obamacare as a fake remedy for a fake crisis, Harsanyi continued, in order to gain “social engineering and coercion, allowing technocrats to dictate how a third of the economy functions,” as required by the Third International.
Nonetheless, Hansanyi sighed, the GOP’s “Obamacare Lite” might have to do, and encouraged readers to look on the bright side: For one thing, at least it stripped funding from Planned Parenthood and ended much abortion coverage, offering Christians hope of a back-alley coat hanger revival. And there was also the prospect of “expanded health savings accounts, and creating real-life illustrations of successes,” such as, perhaps, some scrappy poor kid buying his own asthma medicine with money he would have otherwise wasted on shoes and a winter coat. People are sure to relate!
At National Review, establishment conservatives mainly made excuses for how bad the bill sucked.
Ramesh Ponnuru argued that since “aspects of Obamacare are popular,” Republicans had to give their bill some ugly features in order to avoid a Senate filibuster (though how the non-budgetary parts of the poorly-conceived bill would pass the Byrd Rule is hard to figure).
His colleague Liam Donovan asked readers to sympathize with the Republicans, for “harsh judgment on the American Health Care Act has been rendered without acknowledging the parameters within which Republicans are forced to work…”
Dan McLaughlin also pleaded for understanding: “A total and immediately effective repeal with no backup plan would create losers who would be angry and sympathetic,” he admitted, so the lousy GOP bill was “driven not by a desire to produce the best plan for the country’s future, but rather by a desire to address the difficulty of transitioning out of the bind created by Obamacare’s entrenchment over the past four years.” You can’t make a libertarian omelette without breaking a few social contracts!
“It is much too early to draft eulogies for this effort,” said Yuval Levin, as one does when things are going great.
strap it on tight called for “Great Communicators” to sell the bill to citizens, then wrote a column disqualifying himself from the job (“Thrilling as it might be to throw the parachute out before the jump, it remains safer to strap it on tight and add in a backup for good measure”).
Others just overtly moved from the now-traditional liberal-tears “Fuck Your Feelings” approach to a “Fuck Our Principles” one: At the Daily Caller, for example, Joe Alton warned that Democrats were “propagating the (false) belief that Republicans are mean-spirited and uncaring” and advised that though “the price tag on Medicaid expansion has been a hefty one… losing governorships, state houses, and, perhaps, even the House of Representatives, carries an even higher price for conservatives and the country.” Insert Blazing Saddles phoney-baloney jobs clip here.
Why did they even roll this out? Gotta start somewhere. We can assume this bill will undergo many changes — not to make it less horrible (any bill they pass and The Leader signs will suck), but to make themselves look like they’re being responsive to the Will of the People instead of driven by campaign donor demands and deep-seated anti-social impulses to ruin the country.
Given citizens are liking Obamacare better the closer Republicans get to killing it, expect the GOP to try a lot of new things to convince us — maybe, for example, sending citizens a free Lord’s Prayer novelty key chain for every essential health benefit they take away — before ramming it through. If not for the millions of people who’ll suffer from it, I’d say it would be fun to watch.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 13, 2017