Author, Lecturer, Ethicist

LIFE Is a Pre-existing Condition



                           A First-Inning Celebration 

                           A First-Inning Celebration 

This past Thursday, '45 and a couple of dozen Republican House members gathered in the White House Rose Garden to celebrate passage (by a single vote) of their greedy, sadistic and dangerously sophomoric "American Healthcare Act." To call their celebration premature or overblown would be kind, for in truth, it was tantamount to breaking open a case of champagne because your team scored a run on an inning-ending double play in the top of the first of the first game of the season. But then again, '45 does relish victories, no matter how small or pyrrhic. And if there is a God in the heavens, this 217-213 vote victory will be of the pyrrhic sort – the definition of which is  "Coming at far too great a cost to have been worth it all.  There's no question that the Democrats – none of whom voted in favor of this atrocity – fully understand the meaning of "pyrrhic victory." Moments after the vote tally was announced many of them began singing Steam's "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" to their colleagues across the aisle.  They were, of course, referring to the 2018 mid-term election . . .

One wonders how many of the 217 Republicans who voted for this bill (20 voted against it) had read – let alone –understood just how nasty, misguided and hardhearted a piece of legislation their party gurus had crafted. For indeed, the American Healthcare Act guts some of the most widely supported aspects of Obama care, such as:

  •  Denying insurance companies the right to charge significantly higher rates to people with pre-existing conditions;
  •  Eliminating lifetime caps on insurance coverage, and
  • Creating a system in which enhancing and fostering wellness is just as important as treating illness.  

Who knows? Perhaps a lot of the Republicans voting in favor of this bill really didn't support it, were betting that the Senate version would eliminate its most egregious clauses, but nonetheless felt they had to walk in lockstep with their wealthiest donors, most of whom are more concerned with the enormous tax advantages coming their way began with the health of the American public.

For make no mistake about it, the House version of this bill has as much to do with putting hundreds of billions of dollars into the pockets of the wealthiest Americans than with making sure that all Americans can afford health insurance. The Republicans were in such a hurry to keep '45's campaign promise to "repeal and replace" Obamacare that they couldn't even wait for the Congressional Budget Office's cost analysis - which would have provided an estimate of how much the bloody thing will cost and how many millions of people will likely be losing their insurance.  According to the Tax Policy Center, the bill would cut taxes by about $765 billion over the next decade.  The lion's share of the tax savings would go to the wealthy and hyper-wealthy.  The top 20 percent of earners would receive 64% of the savings and the top 1% of earners (those making more than $772,000 in 2022) would receive 40% of the savings. Additionally, this bill would allow insurance companies to charge older customers up to five times more than younger customers — up from a maximum 3-to-1 ratio under the current health law.

And yet, '45 and his merry band continue to proclaim that the AHCA will provide better coverage for all at a greatly reduced cost (unless one is poor, un- or under-employed or has a pre-existing condition).  Truth to tell, most all of us have some sort of pre-existing condition.  For under terms of the AHCA, pre-existing conditions include - to name but a few -  Acne, allergies, anxiety, asthma, basal cell skin cancer (a type of skin cancer that doesn't tend to spread), depression, ear infections, fractures, high cholesterol, hypertension, incontinence, joint injuries, kidney stones, menstrual irregularities, migraine headaches, being overweight, restless leg syndrome, tonsillitis, urinary tract infections, varicose veins, and vertigo. 

In other words, life itself is a pre-existing condition, which means that an awful lot of people are either going to be without affordable health insurance, or else shoved into into pricey (and grossly underfunded) "high-risk pools" where coverage will be beyond their means.  And then hospital emergency rooms will return to being the healthcare destination of first - and last - resort for the un- and under insured.  By law emergency rooms must tend to anyone who walks through the door.  This fact has long served as both a talking point and rationalization for anti-Obamacare conservatives. "No one is denied medical attention," they declare; "all they have to do is get themselves to an E. R." While this is technically true, an E.R. can do next to nothing for an uninsured person walking in, telling a nurse or doctor they simply don't feel well, go through a battery of tests, and then be diagnosed with, say, Crohn's disease, glioblastoma (an incredibly aggressive cancer) or Multiple sclerosis, all of which require rigorous long-term care. For those without insurance, the diagnosis is tantamount to a death sentence. 

So now the American Healthcare Act act goes over to the Senate, where it's most politically lethal aspects will be amputated, rewritten and likely rehabilitated. This is going to take weeks, if not months. And then, following the vote on whatever the Senate comes up with, it goes back to the House of Representatives. Whether or not that House and Senate can reach a rapprochement is anyone's guess.

Unquestionably, healthcare is going to be the central issue in the 2018 midterm election. Those House members voted in favor of the AHCA will be wearing a bull's-eye on their political backsides. If the Democrats play it smart (and frequently they do not) they will not only aim their arrows at these bull's-eyes, but make a clear-cut and audacious case for universal health insurance. Moreover they should continually make the case that affordable healthcare is not a privilege, but a right. Yes, the Republicans will continually and breathlessly brand this audacious proposal with a label reading "Socialist" . . . But so what? Isn't it time that America stop being the only developed nation on earth (there are 33 of them) without some sort of universal healthcare - whether it be Single-Payer, Two-Tier, or Insurance Mandate?  

President Theodore Roosevelt started pushing for universal healthcare way back in 1912 – the same year Norway instituted their system. FDR, Truman, JFK, LBJ, Carter, Clinton, and even Richard Nixon all pushed for some form of national healthcare. After 105 years, isn't it about time? The American Healthcare Act – whatever its final form may be – must be rejected by the American people. For if life itself is a pre-existing condition, it must be covered.

After all, doesn't the Declaration of Independence affirm that we are all endowed by our Creator with "certain unalienable, Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

Note well that "Life" comes before both "Liberty," and "the Pursuit of Happiness."

109 days down, 1,348 to go.

 Copyright©2017 Kurt F. Stone