Last week, the GOP’s health care bill was pulled. Shortly before the vote in the House was to take place, word came that the bill had been pulled, on the direction of the president.
It’s called justice for masses of Americans, not because Speaker Paul Ryan or the president wanted or care about justice for the poor, the elderly, women, children and the chronically ill, but because the GOP just did not have the votes to move their bill to the Senate.
The hue and cry about the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” was that it was a bad bill from the beginning and that it is in a “death spiral.” The GOP talking points included the narrative that people had access to health care but could not afford it because premiums and deductibles were high and were only going to get higher. They cited areas where there is only one insurance company to which people can apply for health care. Their bill, they said, would assure that premiums and deductibles decreased and would make it possible for Americans to “choose” the kind of health care they wanted.
Some said their bill would make it so that the system operated the way it had before the ACA, which should have made everyone pause.
“The way things were” in regards to health care was the reason presidents had been trying for decades to get health care reform. Prices were so high that the poor and the “almost poor” could not afford health care. Children were dying from communicable diseases because their parents could not afford health care. Those were just a couple of populations within the United States who benefited from the ACA. From the time the ACA became law in 2009, the number and percentage of insured people has increased annually, though some people have, in fact, lost their coverage. Between Medicaid, the Marketplace and young people signing up for health care, over 20 million more people have health care than was the case before the ACA.
Those who finally were able to get health care cherished it, as well they should have. The GOP goal of making health care a matter of competition for insurance companies does not have one iota of concern for the well being of people, though in this rush to get the GOP bill passed, we heard, over and over, that this bill had the well-being of patients in mind. No. That is not quite accurate if we understand what the GOP farmed out to us about their bill. From what we were told, the bill would have taken good care of those who had the money to pay for health care and would reward the wealthy with a hefty tax break.
Much of the fight against the ACA feels like a personal fight against former President Barack Obama. From the moment the bill passed, there was a cry of anger and protest. It was hailed as a failure from the beginning. But some of the fight has to do with issues of class and race, as well as a distain for “entitlements,” which many feel are tools provided by the government to help “lazy people.” Many Americans feel that entitlements are used primarily by people who are poor, that identify as being predominantly Black and Brown. These people drain the economy by getting help from the government, and many conservatives are bound and determined that their “free ride” will stop.
Roger Marshall, a Republican lawmaker from Kansas, illustrated the class bias – which includes racial bias as its foundation – many have when he quoted the Bible and reminded people that Jesus said, “The poor will always be with us.” He went on to say that poor people “just don’t want health care and are not going to take care of themselves,” according to a Time magazine article.
This GOP bill, had it moved along, would have been a step toward denying health care to a population of people who lawmakers believe already get too much. What they did not consider was that that population includes millions of poor, White, working class people who voted for Donald Trump. At the end of the day, the lawmakers, and their president, wanted a bill that stole compassionate and necessary health care from one group of people and at the same time would increase profits for insurance companies and give wealthy people yet another tax break.
It takes having been without health care to understand what a tragedy and catastrophe that situation is. It takes having a loved one die from a treatable disease or illness to understand feeling the anger at being rejected and denied dignity and care just because of one’s race, class or ethnicity.
The GOP’s bill was pulled. I hope it is put in a box and stored forever, even as I hope the two political parties of this nation stop their bickering and make a bill that works. That would be Part II of the walk toward justice for all that began the moment their bill died.
Rev. Dr. Susan K Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries and a communications consultant for the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference Inc. She can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org.