As loyal readers of the blog know, I have on occasion published posts in a long-running series entitled “Our Hypocrisy is not like Theirs.” Today we’re up to Part 14. I saw a certain kind of irony in the following two stories, both of which caused news yesterday:
- Baby Charlie Gard
- The Better Care Reconciliation Act
Let’s review these one at a time.
Baby Charlie Gard
Charlie Gard is a rather unfortunate baby living in the London borough of Camden who has acquired a rare genetic condition known as a mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. It’s a tragedy for this boy’s family, for sure. The boy was born in August of 2016, was diagnosed in October of 2016, and by January of 2017 was in the hospital long-term, where the medical team was applying for approval to do an experimental treatment with nucleosides. However, while the application process was going on, baby Charlie had a round of seizures so severe that the medical team withdrew their support for attempting the experimental therapy (due to the development of severe epileptic encephalopathy). They began discussions with the parents about withdrawing life support and providing palliative care. The parents, however, were and remain opposed, and under the motto “if Charlie’s still fighting, we’re still fighting” have sought to move the baby to the United States to receive the experimental care there. They raised £1.3 million from the crowdfunding website GoFundMe for this endeavor, but have not yet received approval to move him. Today came the news that they had stormed out of one more “last chance hearing” when their request to have him moved to the United States was once again denied.
This tragic little case had become newsworthy some time ago in the United Kingdom, and Charlie’s plight has since made news in the United States as well. Pope Francis weighed in, with an offer to have the baby transferred to the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome. Naturally, it didn’t take long for President Kumquat and two Republican Congressmen (Brad Wenstrup and Trent Franks) to follow suit. The two Congressmen promised to file legislation to make little Charlie an American citizen so that he can come here and be treated here.
The Better Care Reconciliation Act
The BCRA is, of course, Mitch McConnell’s Senate version of the American Health Care Act, both of which are variants of the Republican’s repeated promise to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Again, to review:
- There is nothing wrong with the Affordable Care Act that some bi-partisan cooperation could not fix.
- The reason that the Republicans have been so implacably opposed is not because the Affordable Care Act is imploding or destroying the health insurance industry, but because they are implacably opposed to Obama’s legacy (even though Obama is out of office now).
- Although they had six years to do so, the Republicans never drafted a replacement for the Affordable Care Act because they never thought they would be in a position to repeal it. (As long as Obama and Hillary Clinton were President, they knew their repeal would be vetoed.)
- When they finally had the chance to repeal and replace, both the House and the Senate worked under the cover of night and with as much secrecy as possible, knowing that their work would be deeply unpopular.
- The House’s first attempt failed when it became clear that they did not have the votes in March of 2017. However, a 2nd attempt a few weeks later succeeded just barely after enough sweeteners and bribes were thrown into the pot.
- The Senate’s first attempt right before the July 4th recess also failed to come to a vote, because the Senate’s internal vote count made it clear that there were enough right-wing and moderate Republican defections to fail to muster the required 51 vote majority (including the Vice President, who can cast the tie-breaking vote).
- Now they’re back with their own second attempt. They’ve tinkered around the edges, but the essential problem remains intact.
The two defining features of both bills is that they would (1) repeal the individual mandate that is at the core of Obamacare, and (2) substantially limit the federal government’s contribution to Medicaid (which goes far beyond an Obamacare repeal, and is intended to give the Republicans the financial flexibility to be able to pass tax cuts for the super-rich.) The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has determined that the House and Senate bills would cause millions of people to lose health insurance over the next decade: 23 million in the case of the House bill, 22 million in the case of the Senate bill. (Health care bills was and still is the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States.)
For those of you interested in the details of what both the House and Senate bills would do, National Public Radio has put together a very convenient table, which you can see here.
Mitch McConnell went back to the drawing board – in secret once again – and this time he has come back with a very similar bill that adds two incentives for both wings of his party:
- For the right wing, he has added provisions that allow insurance companies who are participating in an exchange to offer “de minimis” plans that do not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (i.e., don’t include ‘essential health benefits’), and which are cheap enough that some young and healthy individuals might actually buy health insurance. This is known as the “Cruz amendment” after our beloved Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz.
- For moderate Republicans, there are provisions adding billions of spending to the bill. The bill first offered by McConnell and friends a few weeks ago included $2 billion to address the opioid crisis for 2018; this version would offer about $45 billion over 10 years. Also trying to buy off moderate opponents, the original version provided $112 billion that would have allowed states to stabilize their markets; this version bumps up that “buy off” money to $182 billion.
Other than that the new version of the BCRA keeps some of the Obamacare taxes that the first version repealed, including the net investment income tax and a payroll tax. However, it still caps Medicaid, as the previous version did. And is still screws over people with pre-existing conditions by allowing insurance companies to charge whatever the fuck they want for that group of unfortunate people. Like me.
About the Hypocrisy
So, you can always count on Republicans to jump on the bandwagon when there is a public story out there that has a ‘pro-life’ angle. Keep baby Charlie alive, no matter the cost! Make him a citizen, bring him to America! (Even though all the doctors who have treated him – and let’s face it, doctors basically never give up – have all given up.) Baby Charlie is worth every penny!
Now, how about working and middle-class Americans who would like to see their parents cared for in a nursing home, if needed, for the last few years of life. Well, fuck those people! Who needs them? Sure, a lot of them voted for Trump, but we don’t need them anymore.
Or how about middle-aged people with pre-existing conditions? Well, fuck those people! Who needs them? Sure, a lot of them voted for Trump, but we don’t need them anymore.
Or, how about those of us who might need some nursing care ourselves as we grow into the late stage of our lives. Well, fuck us! Who needs us? Sure, a lot of us voted for Trump – well, not readers of this blog, but you get the point – but we’re not needed anymore.
This is your modern-day Republican party. Pyrrhic victories, and a kiss off for everybody else, even the voters who brought you to the party. And those voters have been so thoroughly propagandized that they will find a way to blame the Democrats. After all Democrats are obstructionists! (as we’ve been told by President Kumquat). Forgetting the whole time that nobody has ever been more obstructionist than the Republican party during the Obama administration, and that the only reason that we’re having this “repeal and replace” debate is because it is part of the Republican’s legacy in obstructing the Affordable Care Act at every turn.
 The case was heard at the High Court, and on April 11 the court ruled that it was in the infant’s best interests for his treating clinicians to withdraw mechanical ventilation and provide him with palliative care only, maintaining his dignity. On May 25, the Court of Appeal refused to overturn the decision of the lower court, and the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom subsequently refused permission to appeal from this decision. A final appeal was made to the European Court of Human Rights, which was also rejected.
 It’s not so clear who would pay for all of this. Probably the American taxpayer.
 Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has already announced her opposition to the revised bill. So has Rand Paul from Kentucky (but for completely different reasons). So McConnell can’t afford to lose anyone else.