Don’t Be Distracted By Impeachment: The GOP Is Still Coming For Your Health Care
The Republican Party’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is simply pathological. During the debate over the ACA in 2009–10, the GOP shamelessly lied about it — even making the false claim that the bill contained so-called “death panels.” (Do you know anybody who has been hauled in front of a death panel?) Even though the bill was based on Romney Care, no Republicans voted for the ACA when it passed in 2010. Since the law’s passage, the GOP has done everything in its power to sabotage the law. That unethical sabotage has caused premiums to increase by 20% in Nebraska.
A part of that campaign of sabotage have been a series of lawsuits filed by the GOP aimed at having un-elected judges with taxpayer subsidized health insurance to strike down the entire law. The U.S. Supreme Court has already rejected two challenges to the ACA. In the 2012 case, Chief Justice John Roberts was the essential fifth vote to uphold the constitutionality of most of the law. Unfortunately, the price for Roberts’ fifth vote was to make the Medicaid expansion optional for the states.
The most recent legal challenge to the ACA was filed in front of a GOP friendly activist federal judge in Texas. That George W. Bush appointee surprised legal experts when he threw out the entire ACA in a legally specious opinion in December 2017.
Unfortunately, several prominent elected Nebraska Republican office holders support this dangerous lawsuit. Pete Ricketts and Doug Peterson had the state of Nebraska join this lawsuit when it was filed. Jeff Fortenberry, Don Bacon and Adrian Smith have all voted two times against resolutions which allowed the House of Representatives to intervene in opposition to this right wing lawsuit.
The consequences for the country would be catastrophic if Trump and the Republicans “win” this case. Approximately 20 million Americans would lose insurance coverage. Pre-existing condition protections would be eliminated. This would impact nearly 1 in 3 Americans since approximately 102 million people have pre-existing conditions. In addition, the Medicaid expansion would be repealed, the Medicare doughnut hole would return for senior citizens and young adults would no longer be covered by their parents’ insurance policies.
Yesterday, a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit came out with a decision of sorts on the fate of the ACA. Two GOP appointed judges ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and sent the case back for further proceedings to the same Texas federal judge who threw out the entire ACA two years ago. (A Carter appointee filed a dissenting opinion.) My educated guess is that this very political, right wing judge will find a new legal basis to throw out the ACA by judicial fiat.
Two Democratic members of Congress expressed concern that the fate of millions of Americans’ health care still hangs in the balance after all of these years. “Trump asked the courts to take away preexisting condition protections for Americans, and after today’s decision, millions of families will go to sleep scared that those protections are still at risk,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said.
Representative Llloyd Doggett (D-TX) warned Americans not to be overly distracted by impeachment proceedings: “Hardly coincidental that, as the nation’s attention is focused on the impeachment of Donald Trump, Republican appellate appointees impede access to health care for millions of Americans. It is just a matter of time before that Fort Worth trial court will again invalidate the entire Act, including its protections for patients with pre-existing conditions.”
I’m not complacent about the ultimate outcome of this lawsuit based upon the opinions of legal experts that the Trump Administration’s legal theory is frivolous in nature. Nor do Roberts’ two previous votes to uphold the ACA give me any sense of confidence in the outcome of this case. (Nonetheless, if the composition of the Supreme Court should not change, I do believe that Roberts would vote to reject a third challenge to the ACA.)
What gives me great concern is if the composition of the nation’s highest court should change. If one of the Democratic appointed justices were to retire or pass away (God forbid), a new Trump appointed justice would most likely vote with Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh to invalidate the ACA. This is a very activist and political “conservative” majority on the Supreme Court.
Going forward in 2020, we Democrats need to emphasize what we all agree on — universal health coverage for the American people. We need to focus on what unites us.
At the same time, the Democrats need to focus on how we differ from the GOP on health care. The D.C. Republicans simply don’t believe in universal coverage and consumer protections. The radical right doesn’t believe it is a legitimate function of government to spend money on health care for the sick, the poor and the elderly. They just don’t believe in it.
We need to constantly emphasize the huge difference between our party and the GOP on health care. We need to say it again and again and again that the Republicans in Congress voted over sixty times during the Obama era to take away insurance from 20 million Americans and end pre-existing condition protections.
Similarly, we need to remind the voters that Trump and the Republicans tried to do the same thing all over again when they controlled all of the branches in 2017. Moreover, if Trump gets any additional appointments to the Supreme Court, the ACA will be gone.
We Democrats made this huge contrast on health care our central message in mid-term elections. We won big in 2018. Now let’s do it again in 2020!