Health care policy wonks and political pundits have been buzzing in anticipation for the vote on the Senate’s version of the American Health Care Act, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA).
The only problem is that recent polls suggest that a low percentage of the American public seem to support the bill in question. And the media at large doesn’t fall short of the country’s consensus.
Predictably, left-leaning commentators commonly criticized the bill’s policy implications, especially in light of recent CBO projections estimating that the BCRA could leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026.
“Whatever Trump and the Republicans might say, these figures make it very clear that the working poor would be huge losers under the bill,” John Cassidy wrote for the New Yorker.
He is clearly critical of the Trump administration’s dismissal of the CBO figures: “The bill would eliminate the investment tax and income surtax that the ACA imposed on households earning more than a quarter of a million dollars a year.”
“Do [the undecided Republican senators] really want to say someday that one of their most important votes in the Senate involved taking health care away from millions of Americans?” wrote Washington Post contributor E.J. Dionne Jr., rejecting the White House’s narrative that the BCRA is better than Obamacare. “I would like to believe they are too decent for that.”
Even most right-wing pundits are concerned about the conservative merits of the Senate Republican’s healthcare bill.
“These bills don’t just fail to repeal and replace Obamacare with real reform, they would extend its life for years to come,” libertarian blog Reason’s Nick Gillespie commented, saying the BCRA’s cuts do not go far enough for a free-market solution.
He asserts that the current versions of the AHCA “represent not just a failure of nerve, but a failure of vision,” and that promoting a more conservative, privatized plan “would actually help deliver 21st-century health care for us all.”
“The Republican Party is a party without purpose,” wrote Washington Examiner columnist Philip Klein. He condemned the Republican Party at large for backtracking from their promise to overhaul Obamacare. “They barely tried [to repeal the ACA], raising questions about whether they ever actually wanted to repeal Obamacare in the first place.”
In an interview with Vox’s Sean Iling, Klein continued to decry the BCRA as a bill “governed by ideological incoherence.”
Although he acknowledges that “not everything can or should be negotiated in the media,” Klein points out the administration’s hypocrisy in how they’re choosing to mark up the bill.
“Republicans are conducting the process much more clandestinely than Democrats did with Obamacare, after they spent years decrying that process,” he said.
Like Klein, many in the media disagree with both the bill’s substance and the way the Trump administration and Senate leadership have handled BCRA dissenters, within and outside of government.
CNN’s Paul Murphy insisted that the hypocrisy behind the GOP’s health care deal-making is by design: “Once the bill’s draft goes public, they cede control of the narrative — and the bill’s language.”
“There’s a reason the Senate health bill is being written in a closed-door process with no planned public hearings or serious debate.” Vox’s Ezra Klein noted, condemning the Republican leadership’s haste in passing complicated health care policy. “The hope is to finish it fast and move on forever, as the GOP knows defending it publicly is a losing proposition.”
But secret markups and hidden hearings just to manipulate public opinion makes it seem like the GOP cares more about political gain over transparency, a move that keeps the media from reporting on policy substance.
And Senate Republicans understood this eight years ago, when they condemned Democrats for the same exact thing. Current Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price himself was critical of Senate Democrats’ secretive push for the ACA.
With Democrats discussing health care in secret, they’re sacrificing the trust of the American people.
— Tom Price (@RepTomPrice) January 14, 2010
Many onlookers on Twitter have been quick to point out the secretary’s hypocrisy now.
There isn’t a single thing the GOP has done that they didn’t smugly criticize several years ago.
— Ian Fortey (@IanFortey) June 20, 2017
— Lina Duarte (@lmduarte16) June 20, 2017
I’ll rephrase so you won’t look like a hypocrite. There isn’t a single thing the GOP has done that the Dems didn’t do several years ago.
— kelso02 (@kelso2002) June 20, 2017
Moderate Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who has officially announced his opposition to the BCRA, also condemned the Democrats in 2009.
I am disappointed that the majority party has repeatedly refused to work with Republicans and allow sunlight into this process. #tcot
— Dean Heller (@DeanHeller) October 15, 2009
Ironically, in 2009, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the lack of transparency was unacceptable when Obamacare was up for a vote, which is what fellow members of government and the media largely accuse him of promoting now that the BCRA is on the table.
“The United States has never had a Senate leader as ruthless, as willing to bend, distort and break the rules, traditions and precedents of the Senate as Mitch McConnell,” Atlantic contributing writer Norm Ornstein noted. He asserts that because of McConnell’s will, the BCRA is likely not dead “despite the growing opposition and the fact that the overwhelming majority of health-policy analysts and health providers say the bill is a walking disaster.”
“McConnell is basically gambling that he can get [Rand] Paul, [Ted] Cruz, and [Mike] Lee (or at least one of them) to accept a partial repeal as a step in the right direction.” Matt Fuller and Igor Bobic wrote for HuffPost, critical of Republican reconciliation. “With Senate Democrats badgering Republicans about how they’re ramming this bill through — no hearings, no markups, hiding the bill from members — some GOP lawmakers are now acknowledging that the process has been less than stellar.”
“McConnell’s theory is that if the Senate’s bill were seen, debated and discussed, opposition would grow,” wrote Paul Waldman for the Washington Post. “The bill’s secrecy is garnering more and more attention, and more and more outrage. It has become one of the leading complaints Democrats make about it.”
Whether or not you feel this version of the AHCA cuts too many benefits or doesn’t privatize health care enough, everyone seems to agree that policy secrecy for political gain is unacceptable. The current administration claims to wage war against a dishonest mainstream media, but perhaps they should consider giving the American people access to bills so reporters are able to do their job.