Healthcare in the Trumpian Era
“Repeal and replace Obamacare!” cry Mitch McConnell and the Republicans. For the past 7 years, Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate have vowed to scrap the Affordable Care Act, a signature piece of legislation by the Obama Administration. It was also one of the many campaign slogans that current President Donald Trump championed during the 2016 elections.
Approaching nine months since President Trump has been elected, House and Senate Republicans have failed to negotiate to pass a plan. Some argue that the new measures are not conservative enough. Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul suggest the proposals are merely “Obamacare-light,” keeping in major provisions. Others, such as Susan Collins of Maine, have noted that defunding popular programs such as Medicare and Medicaid would have serious consequences to the lives of low-income and elderly citizens. For months, Senate leaders have been struggling to persuade Collins and other conflicted senators, such as Lisa Murkowski to help them achieve the simple majority needed to pass a bill.
The most recent bill, known as the Graham-Cassidy bill, would provide states with block grants and the flexibility to negotiate with private insurance companies on how healthcare should operate in states. Although it would provide states with the option to keep Obamacare if they wish to, funding for Medicare, Planned Parenthood, and those suffering from pre-existing conditions will be reduced significantly. Efforts to rush this proposed legislation by October 1st, the date in which the Senate can pass bills with 50 votes instead of 60, were ultimately halted when John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins announced that they could not support the bill.
Even with a supermajority, these repeated failures by Congress have illustrated the fractures within the Republican Party. Same situation with the Democrats. Within their perspective parties, representatives are struggling to find a medium between their allegiance to corporate donors from the pharmaceutical industry and representing their constituents. During each election cycle, the pharmaceutical industry plays a key role in funneling “big money” and donating to candidates’ campaigns. When finally placed into office, politicians are often seen providing kickbacks by voting in favor for the pharmaceutical companies as a way of expressing their appreciation. As a result, instead of identifying solutions to provide more people with better coverage, politicians from both sides of the isle cannot seem to come into some consensus.
However, since the 2016 presidential election, one senator has gotten much attention, not only for his economic platform, but also for his plan for healthcare. Bernie Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont, has proposed a “Medicare for All,” a universal health care plan that would cover every American in the country.
While the Republicans, corporate Democrats, and mainstream media are vigorously trying to downplay Sanders’s healthcare plan, Bernie retaliates. He notes that every modern industrialized nation, including Canada and most of Europe, offers some form of a single-payer system. As Sanders continues to travel around the nation and advocate for this, increasingly, more Democrats, Independents, and even Republicans are beginning to see the benefits of this system. When a majority of the working class are simply working paycheck to paycheck, the current high costs of prescription drugs and medical checkups are a burden to their daily lives.
According to a recent poll conducted by Harvard-Harris, 69 percent believed that a single-payer system would “provide more coverage.” Having this hardship lifted from them would allow them more flexibility to use their money in other parts of their lives.
“But it [Sanders’s bill] would bankrupt our country,” many conservatives point out. Republicans in both the House and the Senate have long argued that there is no feasible route to successfully implement Bernie’s plan. Meanwhile, the Senate recently passed a $700 million defense policy bill to aid the military. This comes contrary to President Trump’s rhetoric in “Making America Great Again.” In fact, shortly after announcing his candidacy for President in 2015, Trump promised on the 60 Minutes show that, “everyone will be taken care of, everyone will be covered. The government is going to pay for it.”
As a nation that continues to come together onto single-payer, it is our responsibility to hold Donald Trump to his word. More importantly, progress in “Medicare for All” begins at a grassroots level. This means contacting both district representatives and senators, pushing them to co-sponsor for either John Conyer’s bill in the House (H.R 676), or Bernie Sanders’s bill in the Senate (S. 1804).
Currently, two-thirds of House Democrats and almost half of Senate Democrats have signed onto “Medicare for All.” Shall they continue to resist against the will of the people, even with a majority of Americans supporting the issue, their time in office will terminate in the upcoming election.
The stakes are high, but the problems revolving healthcare exponentially larger. It is incumbent amongst citizens to advocate and push for this cause, rather than have our voices taken away by the power of the pharmaceutical industry. This past presidential election has exposed the Affordable Care Act for its benefits and drawbacks, but more significantly, starts a serious discussion about a single-payer option and its future.