THE CASSIDY-GRAHAM health-care bill is bad legislation, and the only reason it has a shot at passing next week is Republicans’ breathtaking cynicism. Do not take our word for it. Ask Sen Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who candidly explained GOP thinking. “I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered,” he told a group of local reporters. “But Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill.”
What are Mr. Grassley’s 10 reasons the bill doesn’t deserve to become law? His office wouldn’t tell us. So here a few he might have in mind:
● The bill reshapes a massive and fundamental sector of the economy, including the Medicaid program for the poor and near-poor, but senators will vote on it without a serious Congressional Budget Office projection of its effects on people’s health coverage. Outside experts have tried to fill the gap, and their conclusions have been alarming. But the CBO is Congress’s official scorekeeper. How can Republican senators possibly justify voting without knowing, for example, how many people would lose access to coverage?
● The bill’s backers insist that it would equalize the distribution of federal dollars among the states. In fact, this amounts to a euphemism for cutting what the federal government spends, which means that only a small number of states would end up better off. Most would struggle to maintain the coverage gains of the past decade. States such as Alaska, Arizona, Kentucky and Maine — to name a select few — would get slammed.
● This guarantees, in turn, that millions of people, probably tens of millions, would lose their health-care coverage.
● The bill erodes protections for people with preexisting conditions. You can pretend otherwise, as the president and other leaders do. But allowing states far more leeway to jack up prices on sick people and to eliminate coverage for treatments they need is effectively denying care to those with preexisting conditions.
● This is a GOP-only bill, with Republicans locking Democrats out of the process, even as the minority party was bargaining in good faith. Senior Republicans and Democrats were on the verge of striking a deal that would have funded Obamacare programs and offered states more flexibility in applying them. But, under pressure from the White House and other GOP leaders, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) scuttled the negotiations in service of the awful plan from Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).
GOP opposition to Obamacare, punctuated by absurd accusations of death panels, ridiculous narratives about the health-care system collapsing and persistent efforts to undermine coverage expansion for millions, was divorced from fact or reason from the beginning. Now the party is reaching for a new low, forcing through a cruel bill without leveling with Americans or even themselves about what is in it, merely because it has “Obamacare repeal” stamped on it. We could maybe give you 10 reasons why politicians like that do not merit the trust voters have placed in them.