Arizona Senator John McCain will get and deserves the best medical care he can get in his battle against brain cancer. Millions rightly will be pulling for his healthful recovery. But McCain’s health battle also casts an ugly glare on the hypocrisy and contradiction in the GOP’s relentless war against Obamacare. It starts with McCain. In August 2016, he was in a mildly tough fight for re-election to his sixth Senate term. The issue that McCain went after was healthcare, specifically, Obamacare. He bluntly told a Fox Business interviewer that Obamacare was “collapsing like a house of cards.”
This was not simply another case of a GOP senator taking a straight, hardline stance against the Affordable Care Act. McCain made it plain before he lashed out at Obamacare on Fox that healthcare should be mostly left to the free market. He ticked off a checklist of ways healthcare should function. It included such things as: risk pools, greater interstate insurance availability, and letting people opt out of healthcare completely. Said McCain, we must go back to “square one” with healthcare and take a “capitalistic approach to it.”
McCain has been as good as his word and belief about what healthcare should be about and the limited role government should play in it. Between 1996 and 2007, he voted against every federal measure to either expand or strengthen healthcare coverage. This includes: funding for the State Children Health Insurance Program by increasing the tobacco tax, increases for AIDS prevention drug assistance, tax credits for long term and chronic healthcare needs, credits to small business owners for employee health insurance coverage, and the extension of healthcare coverage to mental illness.
In every case when a proposal was made to increase funding or expand a vital healthcare program, McCain could be counted on to oppose it. In contrast, the government will pay the bulk of the costs of McCain’s care. He is also eligible to receive limited medical services from the Office of the Attending Physician of the U.S. Capitol. And, since he is a military veteran, he can be treated free of charge at Washington, D.C. area hospitals, Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center. Again, all costs for his care will be paid by the government.
McCain’s proposals to replace Obamacare is simply another variation of what the GOP has plopped on the table. They are just as dreadful.
They include scaled down subsidies, tax credits, the expansion of high risk pools, health savings accounts, give insurers the right to peddle insurance in any state they choose, and create Association Health Plans to small businesses and risk pools. The subsidies would scrap the income based measure that Obamacare imposes and substitute instead age as the basis for the subsidy. The subsidy to the poorest and neediest was the linchpin of Obamacare. This made it possible for millions who couldn’t afford insurance at any price to purchase it for the first time. To get the tax credits a low wage worker would still have to come up with the cash to purchase insurance. For many that would be problematic.
The high-risk pools that McCain touts supposedly would move thousands of medically indigent persons in pools to ensure low cost, access to coverage. In fact it would do just the opposite. The bulk of those in the pool would be the sickest and most in need of continuous medical treatment. They would pay more, not less for that coverage. To cover the high cost of maintaining these pools, states would have to pony up more tax dollars or impose premium assessments on insurers who in turn would simply hike their prices to cover the assessments. It would be a never-ending cost increase cycle with absolutely no guarantee that the sickest and neediest in the pool would get the coverage they need.
Under the plan that McCain and other GOP senators had proposed, a staggering 30 million Americans would have been plucked from the healthcare rolls in the next decade. This according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office on the impact that ending Obamacare would have on the nation. Millions, of course, either had no insurance or went without coverage for a period during the course of a year or years before Obamacare kicked in. Many others that got coverage also lost that coverage, almost always because they couldn’t pay for it, or the insurer dropped them because of a medical condition that the insurer considered too costly to pay for. The state of American healthcare was worse than abysmal for millions.
McCain’s claim that Obamacare is collapsing, and that the private market will take care of all health needs has no basis in fact. The high quality of care he’ll get in his fight against cancer almost entirely at government expense proves that. McCain is the best argument that all should receive the same quality of care.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book, The Trump Challenge to Black America (Middle Passage Press) will be released in August. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.