ACA vs. Wealthcare

Cruel. Devastating. Unconscionable. The new Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA) squeaked through the House of Representatives in early May, inspiring plenty of ugly adjectives. Democrats united in denouncing the action while many conservative Republicans were appalled by a rushed process with no independent cost analysis.

The AHCA is indescribable in its meanspirited intent to reshape the Affordable Care Act as a giant tax cut for the wealthy and a mechanism to throw at least 24 million Americans back into the ranks of the uninsured, leaving one to wonder how our country’s leaders could be celebrating a vote that will cause so much pain and suffering for our citizens.

The lies about the new Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA) were prolific and bold. Iowa Republican Rep. Raul Labrador was booed loudly when he told a whopper at a town hall meeting shortly after the vote, saying that “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.” He obviously hasn’t read the Harvard study that estimates that Americans of working age who don’t have insurance have a 40 percent higher risk of death than those who do. It’s hardly difficult to figure out that many adverse health problems stem from a lack of access to health care.

Speaker Paul Ryan strutted to the victory party in the White House Rose Garden, smugly telling reporters it wasn’t true that someone could be denied coverage under the AHCA due to a pre-existing condition, not explaining that insurance companies can now charge those with a broadly defined pre-existing condition whatever they like. Other AHCA supporters refused to acknowledge the damage that will be done by cutting Medicaid, removing employer mandates to offer insurance to their workers at an affordable price, and getting rid of the 10 essential benefits that guarantee access to mental health care, substance abuse treatment and other critical services.

Nevada has more to lose than most states since we’ve made huge progress in covering the uninsured population through Obamacare. You’d think all of our representatives would comprehend that block-granting Medicaid dollars will cause chaos in Nevada, putting rural hospitals at risk, upending the new community-based mental health care system, and guaranteeing overwhelmed emergency rooms are unable to function properly.

You would be wrong. Northern Nevada’s own Rep. Mark Amodei flipped from opposing the bill to supporting it during the 24 hours before the vote, succumbing to pressure or promises from the president and vice president. Amodei enraged Nevadans who believed him when he vowed to vote against any bill that would hurt our state. His explanation for the flip-flop was laughable, and many predicted the vote portends the end of his political career.

If only that were true. The political reality of House District 2, which has been held by Republicans since its creation after the 1980 census, insulates Amodei from the seething anger of his urban constituents. Rural Republicans’ stellar party-line voting record isn’t likely to change no matter what Amodei does.

The AHCA now moves to the U.S. Senate where Nevada’s Republican Senator Dean Heller, up for re-election in 2018, will be a deciding vote. Heller likes to perpetuate the Republican lie that Obamacare is a disaster, admittedly in an inarticulate jumble of half-truths and sheer nonsense. He says he won’t vote for the House bill in its current form, but he’ll likely flip his vote under pressure, just like Amodei.

People of integrity and compassion will work harder than ever to defeat Amodei and Heller in 2018, but it’s moderate Republicans who can send a stinging message that their party has lost its heart and soul by turning the steady trickle of voters abandoning it into a torrent. You may be the only ones they’ll listen to.