Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is irked because late-night host Jimmy Kimmel blasted his co-sponsor of an atrocious health care repeal effort, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), before a nationwide audience for Cassidy’s wildly misleading claims about the latest Senate effort to destroy Obamacare and take down Medicaid.
Kimmel called out Cassidy for statements the senator made on his program not long after the collapse of the late summer Obamacare repeal effort. Cassidy said then that any future “health care” bill would not strip coverage from low-income individuals and the shrinking middle class.
But the proposal from Graham and Cassidy, and fellow Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) introduced in early September does exactly that – and on a scale much larger than the previous repeal efforts. Sadly, the senators have spent the past week peddling the bill as a fix to the ACA, not a repeal of the landmark law. Kimmel and others caught onto the senators’ cynical campaign to rush through the Senate the worst health care repeal bill yet.
The reality is that Graham and his gang — so driven to kill health care reforms, which have saved lives of millions of low-income individuals — pushed aside a budding Senate effort to stabilize the ACA marketplaces to arm-twist passage of their repeal bill. In the process, the senators dissembled on what the bill actually would do, and drew in the Koch brothers – the Midwestern billionaires who spend enormous amounts of money on efforts to destroy the environment and harm poor people – who are threatening to withhold contributions from Republican senators who refuse to support the Graham-Cassidy effort. The Kochs said to Republican senators – vote for this bill and you will no longer be recipients of our large campaign contributions.
Sens. Graham and Cassidy are no visionaries. They have offered no policy that improves upon or replaces a health care reform law that brought coverage to tens of millions of previously uninsured individuals and families, and protections against discrimination in health care – a system that has for far too long condoned discrimination of women, people of color, people with disabilities and the LGBTQ community.
In particular, before the ACA, health care insurance companies routinely discriminated against women, providing inadequate reproductive health care services, preventive care screenings, and generally making health care costlier for women than men. Many private coverage plans did not even include maternity care. Before the ACA, moreover, people of color were also historically denied the same kind of care that most white people were routinely given. LGBTQ people and people with disabilities have also been discriminated against and treated unfairly in the health care system, and still are.
Beyond opening up access to health care for many more people, the ACA combatted discrimination in the health care system by explicitly prohibiting sex discrimination in health care for the first time, in addition to prohibiting discrimination against people of color, women, people with disabilities, seniors, people whose primary language is not English, immigrants, and LGBTQ individuals.
Combine trashing the ACA with ending its Medicaid expansion and converting Medicaid into block grants and per capita caps – drastic cuts in the hundreds of billions – and we face another callous, politically craven effort to make the vulnerable in the country pay, in this case with their health and even lives if they lose their health care coverage.
Medicaid, an entitlement health care program for more than 50 years, is popular, efficient, and working. It covers more than 70 million individuals and families at any given moment, thus the largest health care provider in the country effecting a substantial chunk of the economy. Polling is clear here – individuals, regardless of political affiliation do not want Medicaid cut. Graham and Cassidy do not care; indeed, they are obsessed with not only taking out Obamacare, but finally achieving a long-sought goal of conservatives – weaken if not destroy Medicaid. If that can happen, Senate Republicans will have hundreds of billions of dollars in savings from killing the ACA and gutting Medicaid to pay for more tax benefits for the nation’s corporations and wealthy.
The conservative desire to take us back to the 1950s is ignoble and dangerous. Act today to help us defeat Graham-Cassidy. See these NHeLP resources, including an array of ways to contact your senators and make your voices heard.