Democratic and Republican healthcare plans reflect very different values

Maternity and newborn healthcare, on the Republican chopping block.

Maternity and newborn healthcare, on the Republican chopping block.

Republicans yesterday were forced to pull their American Health Care Act (AHCA) for lack of Republican support. House Speaker Paul Ryan and his GOP colleagues made more changes to the bill, were subjected to more arm-twisting, and are reportedly voting on it today. While it’s conceivable that House Republicans can ultimately agree on a bill that has enough giveaways for recalcitrant members, the so-called “healthcare” bill is as good an example as any of the vast difference in values between the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Here are some of the differences between the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as “Obamacare”) and the AHCA that show these value differences:

Affordable Care Act

Insured at least 20 million more Americans, via expansion of Medicaid, tax credits to small businesses and individuals, and otherwise.

89 percent of Americans insured, the highest number in history.

Average annual premium increases lower than before.

Reduced the U.S. deficit.

Prohibits lifetime limits on most benefits.

Insurance companies cannot deny coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

Children can remain on their parents’ plans until age 26.

Requires insurance companies to provide “Essential Health Benefits” such as prescription drugs, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, substance abuse coverage, etc.

The debates leading up to the ACA’s passage, as well as President Barack Obama‘s address to Congress in September 2009, reflected the Democrats’ values. First and foremost, as the name indicated, the law was designed to address a crisis of ever-rising premiums and health insurance being out of reach for some 50 million Americans. Second, the ACA gave important protections to everyone who is covered, including the right not to be denied coverage for having pre-existing conditions. Third, the ACA was designed to get us closer to universal coverage, and it did so. This reflects the deeper Democratic Party values of protection and security, and “we’re all in this together,” which is of course the premise behind insurance.

American Health Care Act

24 million Americans would lose health insurance.

Large tax cuts for wealthy Americans.

Premiums would skyrocket for older and less well-off Americans.

Little or no deficit reduction.

Cuts to Medicaid. In one cruel example, a state could revoke Medicaid for a woman if she does not get a job within a mere eight weeks of giving birth.

Defunds Planned Parenthood, which provides many crucial health services to women, such as breast cancer screenings and prenatal services.

Some proposals would gut “Essential Health Benefits,” making it easier for insurance companies not to cover such items, and to place lifetime limits on them.

These differences point up the sham nature of the AHCA. Recall that Republicans first wanted simply to “repeal Obamacare.” When that didn’t fly, they moved to “repeal and replace,” but the replacement proposals thus far are phony and transparent. The GOP proposals are well described by the Twitter hashtag #PayMoreForLess. And an interesting thing happened along the way: Many Americans have decided that they like or need the Affordable Care Act, in some cases owing their lives to it, and, faced with the ACA’s possible demise, they do not like what the Republicans have offered.

All of this was perhaps predictable given the Republican values of (1) doing the bidding of big corporations; (2) decrying government helping people; (3) tax cuts for the wealthy, no matter how much they devastate essential, even life-or-death, services; and (4) kowtowing to religious groups, such as Evangelical Christians, who make up a core Republican constituency and who want their discriminatory views cemented into law.

Photo by Matthew Gosselin, used under Creative Commons license.


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