Now what? This was the two word question that dominated the conversation yesterday (Tuesday, July 25) after the procedural vote taken by the U.S. Senate allowing them to debate the elimination and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, known by most as Obamacare.
Two more words came to mind after the vote: cynical and hypocritical. Allow me to apply them to Senator John McCain, who showed up in the U.S. Senate yesterday with rousing applause as if a conquering hero.
The word hero seems synonymous with Sen. McCain these days; he spent time in a prisoner of war camp and tortured. Interestingly, regarding his heroism, during the presidential campaign Donald Trump downplayed and criticized McCain’s heroism, stating he did not consider him a hero because heroes do not get captured by the enemy. In Trump’s own style, contradicting what he has previously stated, and based on what serves him best at the moment, the president yesterday referred to McCain as a hero — for showing up to vote in the Senate after having had surgery less than two weeks earlier, later to be diagnosed with a form of brain cancer that will be hard to beat, especially for an 80-year-old man.
McCain’s was the crucial vote. The last vote needed, the 50th, which together with the vice president’s, who as president of the Senate cast the 51st, assured what some called a Republican and Trump “victory.”
The truth is that the vote now casts doubt where the country stands on healthcare for its people.
Several things to note. Although Obamacare is still the law of the land, the McCain vote pretends to do away with it… with no plan in sight. The idea is to “debate” amendments proposed that will then be cobbled together as a new healthcare law. Part of McCain’s cynicism can be applied to Republican senators who’ve been critical of Obamacare since its inception seven years ago, and in that time have yet to produce a substitute law to replace it. In fact, the document to be used as a starting point in the aforementioned amendment process is the law proposed and passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year that even President Trump labeled as “mean.” And it is a law that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said would leave about 24 million Americans without health insurance.
If they were honest these members of Congress would tell you that they’d like to eliminate Obamacare in order to offer tax cuts for the wealthiest 10 percent in this country — persons who need it the least…
So, I ask myself, is Obamacare that bad? The answer was offered last year by a friend who has dealt with the idiosyncrasies of the healthcare system in the U.S.
This now 60-something-year-old man contracted cancer a couple of years after the Affordable Care Act became law. He is convinced that Obamacare saved his life. If you listen to his story, he may be right.
At the time he was in the second half of his 50s, and had been paying health insurance for himself for years. He worked as a contract writer, made an honest living, but did not earn more than $48,000 a year — and those were the good times. His health insurance premium had been rising steadily to the point where he might not be able to afford it if the steep rise in premiums continued. But that problem was quickly solved for him by his own health insurance company.
One good day my friend received a letter from his insurance carrier. He was informed that he had been dropped by the company. No reason was given. They suggested that he look for another carrier — starting the following month.
Now allow me to paint a clearer picture of the situation. Here you have a man, in his late 50s, with a mortgage and other usual debts to pay, who was also paying child support and his daughter’s health coverage, and had what is considered good credit. He was convinced that the reasons he had been dropped was his high blood pressure (under control with medication) and that he had had several surgeries (nothing terribly serious) in the last five years. He was nearing 60 and probably was becoming costly to the company.
It gets better, in a sinister way. Searching for new healthcare insurance, my friend realized that under his existing circumstances it would be almost impossible to find coverage. Because of his age, pre-existing conditions and his history of surgeries the past few years, most companies were not interested in offering him coverage. The few that did offered high deductible plans with very expensive premiums — north of $1,000 a month.
He did his numbers and realized he would have to go without insurance, which he did for more than a year.
Then fate stepped in to “save” his life. Obamacare was approved in the U.S. Congress and my friend was able to purchase insurance — the companies no longer able to discriminate because of pre-existing conditions — at a subsidized and affordable monthly premium.
He regularly visited his primary physician, who during one of his visits detected the possibility of cancer. My friend was then sent to a specialist who seconded the primary’s diagnosis. He then had surgery.
Today he is healthy and no longer has cancer in his body. And as he’s told me, more than once, if it wasn’t for Obamacare chances are the cancer would not have been detected as early as it was, and he’d probably be dead, or very sick, by now.
Yesterday I realized that Sen. John McCain and so many others like him in this country — including our president — adhere to the Marie Antoinette school of public policy where the less fortunate are lucky to have the crumbs left by the very rich.
McCain, as a U.S. senator and a wealthy man, was recently afforded the best medical attention possible in a country where healthcare is made more expensive by special interests, who support him at election time. His cynicism and hypocrisy displayed billboard-size when less than two weeks after being afforded what he considers the luxury of healthcare, he flew across the country, against doctor’s orders, to assure that his critical vote was the one that may negate healthcare for almost 24 million Americans in the very near future.
In the case of Sen. McCain, I would hope and wish that the applause he received Tuesday for his “heroism” was worth it.