‘Pro-Life’ Party Risks Millions of Lives With Overnight Vote

There’s a chance that many of us could die.

Around 1:30am EST this morning, the Senate essentially voted 51–48 to kill both me and my brother.

The name of the bill — S.CON.RES.3 — is sufficiently wonky and vague as to hide the scope of the devastation included within:

“A concurrent resolution setting forth the congressional budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2017 and setting forth the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2018 through 2026.”

In truth, the situation — while dire — remains unclear, as the GOP has openly stated there is no replacement plan to speak of, and that plan is necessary for them to fully revoke the protections of pre-existing conditions. As Alicia Adamczyk of Time explains, there remains a small slice of very convoluted silver lining:

“Currently, Republicans only have enough votes to repeal parts of Obamacare via budget reconciliation. That means they can only attack parts of the law that involve a cost to the government, by stripping away associated funding. If the GOP successfully does this as they intend, the pre-existing conditions provision would not be touched, and would basically stay in effect — until they manage to pass a replacement plan. President-elect Donald Trump has said he would like to keep the provision. But Republicans haven’t presented a unified replacement plan, so it’s impossible to say with certainty what will happen . . .
In effect, under a ‘continuous coverage’ policy, a person with a pre-existing condition would need to avoid having any gap in insurance coverage in order to avoid paying more for insurance or being denied outright. So if you lose your job and your health coverage, insurers would be able to deny you coverage. But if you never have a gap, then you can’t be discriminated against.”

Why slip an Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal into a budget bill? The New York Times explains:

“The action by the Senate is essentially procedural, setting the stage for a special kind of legislation called a reconciliation bill. Such a bill can be used to repeal significant parts of the health law and, critically, is immune from being filibustered. Congress appears to be at least weeks away from voting on legislation repealing the law.”

This is the strategy of the modern-day Republican party: Use budget line items to take away our rights and resources. This particular line item in the resolution paves the way for the elimination of protections for people with pre-existing health conditions; 52 million Americans could face losing their coverage.

Please read that correctly: If the House passes this bill and sends it to President-elect Trump to sign, one in five people in this country stands to face skyrocketing premiums due to discriminatory practices by for-profit health insurance companies. We will become uninsurable altogether. Many of us could die; many of us will die.

Also on the future chopping block: veterans and children. Because, you know, the GOP is so pro-life.

Why put millions of lives at risk? Tax cuts for the wealthy, naturally.

According to analysis by the nonpartisan Center of Budget and Policy Priorities and reported by CNBC, repealing the “0.9 percent hospital insurance tax on earnings above $250,000 for couples and [the] 3.8 percent tax on capital gains, dividends and other nonlabor income above that same threshold…would provide a tax cut averaging $7 million for each of the 400 highest-earning taxpayers.”

The cut of $2.8 billion annually would give $1 million+ earning households a $49,000 tax cut — or, what I typically make in two years before taxes. Even if those tax cuts created jobs (which they definitely don’t) and even if those jobs paid a living wage and offered health insurance, I would still be uninsurable.

The ACA (aka “Obamacare”) may not be perfect, but the insurance reform it provided reduced discrimination enough to put health care within reach for approximately 20 million Americans. My brother and I are among those who have experienced a significant anxiety relief and boost in quality health care over the past four years.

Twenty-three years ago, my brother was on dialysis. As a minority, his chance of a donor match for a new kidney was already slim, as the markers that affect rejection are more likely to be compatible within the same ethnic group. By a near miracle — a multi-million-to-one chance — his adoptive mother who is a different ethnicity was a perfect match.

Happily, he has experienced few complications over the past two decades; he’s only suffered from the expected bumps in the road that come from needing to change medications and dosages to avoid rejection. However, successful organ transplantation is still relatively new, so studies on long-term survival rates for someone whose kidney is 40 years older than they are don’t really exist. It might be fine. But we don’t know if organ function declines because the body in which they’re contained is aging, or whether they also age independently and have an expiration date.

Either way, my brother will need a lifetime of care and coverage — coverage which could be denied completely or become astronomical in cost. The last time he needed COBRA to bridge the gap between jobs, it ran him $950 a month and didn’t cover his $1,200-a-month anti-rejection meds.

Should he go back to an employer-based health-care system, he’ll be stuck in whatever job he has when the ACA provisions are repealed. Even going from one job with insurance to another job with insurance will be off the table because the bad old days had a standard 90-day waiting period from the start of employment before “benefits” kicked in. Who among us has $6,000+ lying around to bridge that gap?

My brother will need a lifetime of care and coverage — coverage which could be denied completely or become astronomical in cost.

As for myself, I know from my early-twenties bipolar II misdiagnosis that mental illness is a favorite reason of insurance companies to deny adequate care or even coverage altogether. My current (correct) diagnoses are: major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and attention deficit with hyperactivity disorder. All of these require treatment under the supervision of a psychiatrist with these specific specialties as well as weekly therapy. The doctors’ visits alone would run me almost $1,000 a month. The medications — when you add in my other non-mental-health-related conditions — would also approach $1,000 a month.

As a woman with an abnormal pap smear history and multiple procedures to reduce my risk of cervical cancer, the 49–49 vote to deny women-identified Americans protection through an amendment Democrats introduced was an additional slap in the face. Considering they are also going after the avenue low-income communities have used for years to access preventative reproductive health care — Planned Parenthood — the very places those without insurance or money can go for care are vanishing before our eyes.

While legislation repealing the discrimination protection for all Americans would be necessary to fully return to the bad old days, those of us with these kinds of conditions are often unable to work “regular” jobs or full time, meaning we’re more likely to need an ACA plan than other folks. And we’re definitely more likely to be beholden to shitty employers because of situations like my brother’s.

One needn’t be an ACA plan subscriber who is also a transplant recipient or in need of mental health care to be denied coverage under the old/coming again soon system, however. Other conditions, some of which you only needed to have in your history — rather than at the time of application for coverage — made people automatically deniable for coverage. These included cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, and pregnancy.

Mental health diagnoses weren’t all automatic denials, but coverage was so slight and premiums were so spiked that they might as well have been. In addition to flat out denial of coverage, a number of medications — especially new, i.e. innovative ones — were routinely disallowed, even if they were the best course of treatment for the patient.

Apparently, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) doesn’t know anyone with any of those conditions — curious, considering he’s in the age group where several of them are most prominent. As he put it:

“When Obamacare’s supporters forced their partisan law on our country, they promised an easy-to-use system; one that would lower premiums and out-of-pocket health care costs; one that would foster choice and allow families to keep the plans and doctors they liked. But it didn’t take long for the American people to discover the truth about Obamacare. Too many have been personally hurt by this law. Too many feel they’re worse off than they were before Obamacare.”

Oh. “Too many” of which people, Majority Leader? Too many rich, able-bodied white folks? Because most chronically ill people I know either feel better than they ever have, or at least are on the path to a level of functionality they had stopped believing was possible for them due to cost and discrimination in our corporate insurance system.

Most chronically ill people I know either feel better than they ever have, or at least are on the path to a level of functionality they had stopped believing was possible.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) told reporters Tuesday: “We’re going to use every tool at our disposal through legislation, through regulation, to bring replace concurrent along with repeal, so that we can save people from this mess.”

Also via The New York Times:

“The approval of the budget blueprint, coming even before President-elect Donald J. Trump is inaugurated, shows the speed with which Republican leaders are moving to fulfill their promise to repeal President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement — a goal they believe can now be accomplished after Mr. Trump’s election.”

The Republicans have made their priorities clear; it’s time we believed them. With the vote scheduled for tomorrow in the House, call your legislators and let them know NOT to repeal life-saving provisions of the ACA.

You can find your rep through House.gov and when you call, you will either get a voicemail or speak to a staffer. I know this is hard for those of you who, like me, have phone anxiety; all you need to say is:

“Hello. I’m <name> and I’m a constituent from <city/state> who would like to tell <representative’s name> to oppose the repeal of any part of the Affordable Care Act.”

Even if you would be largely unaffected by this policy change, you should be enraged that this is how your legislators are spending your time and money, and you should let them know about your anger. Surely, there are things that need more attention than systematically punishing the poor and sick by rescinding their health insurance coverage.