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Health care hypocrisy

May 5, 2017

Unless you spent yesterday in a salt mine, you know that the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill radically altering the Affordable Care Act.

If you don’t know exactly what’s in this bill, or how it would affect you, you are not alone. Neither did virtually any of the members of congress, all of them Republicans, who voted for this bill, which they are calling the American Health Care Act.

I was especially surprised that Justin Amash voted for it.

For years, he has prided himself on never voting for any bill he hasn’t read. But he tweeted last night that he only decided to vote for it after he read and understood it.

Well, guess what. I am a college professor, have read a few complicated texts in my life, and I can’t completely figure out exactly what this bill would do. It clearly would make it harder for some people – the oldest and sickest among us – to get health care coverage. It clearly would knock some people off Medicaid or reduce their benefits, which would have vast implications for Michigan.

But it would also give the richest Americans and pharmaceutical companies a tax cut of more than $500 billion dollars, which is, I suspect, a big part of the reason it passed.

Whatever your politics, what’s going on here is a furtive swindle, and here’s how you can tell: The leadership rammed this through before the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office could properly analyze it and report exactly what it will do.

That’s because they know the CBO will report that it will cost millions of people coverage, or make health care more expensive and not as good. They rightly feared that if the facts were known, it would make it harder for some members to vote for it, and they had no votes to spare. What will happen in the Senate is totally unclear, except this bill as written will never become law, and it’s not even clear that any health care reform bill will ever pass both houses.

But this gives both the President and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a symbolic victory, which they very much needed.

things did stay constant. Governor Rick Snyder refused to take any position, which is what he normally does with almost any issue. This is not only annoying, it is becoming counterproductive. President Trump has made it clear that he wants nothing to do with Snyder since he refused to endorse anyone last year.

The governor knows very well how damaging it would be to this state if expansion of Medicaid benefits to hundreds of thousands of Michiganders were to be rolled back, but he said not a word.

There was one interesting subtle political development: This bill only passed because Congressman Fred Upton of Kalamazoo insisted on adding a cosmetic few billion to assist those with pre-existing conditions. This has made him unpopular with both left and right. There have been rumors he might challenge Senator Debbie Stabenow when she runs for reelection next year.

This is a clear sign that isn’t happening. Bismarck once said that nobody should watch either legislation or sausage being made. You could do that back then; there was no cable or twitter.

Sadly, we’re not nearly as lucky today.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s Senior Political Analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.