Welcome to How Bout No, where we channel our rage about the latest infuriating developments and questionable comments on health and healthcare.
Idaho Representative Raúl Labrador is a member of the ultra conservative House Freedom Caucus, the group that didn't support Trumpcare 1.0 because it wasn't cruel enough. The caucus got on board thanks to an amendment to the American Health Care Act that would allow states to define their own "essential health benefits" and raise people's premiums, forcing some people with pre-existing conditions out of the market. After this deal was forged in hellfire, the House swiftly voted on the AHCA before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office could analyze it. The bill passed 217 to 213 on Thursday and Labrador voted yes.
Labrador, who previously said that health care is not a basic human right, held a town hall in Lewiston, Idaho, the next day and it did not go well. One woman suggested he was "mandating that people on Medicaid accept dying. You are making a mandate that will kill people." (The AHCA would roll back the Medicaid expansion and cut $880 billion from Medicaid over the next 10 years.) Labrador responded by saying, "No one wants anyone to die," then, incredibly: "That line is so indefensible. Nobody dies because they don't have access to health care." You can bet he got booed.
People without health insurance do indeed die at higher rates. A 2009 study in The American Journal of Public Health found that uninsured Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of dying than their privately insured peers and estimated that 45,000 deaths every year are tied to a lack of health insurance. Not to mention that if fewer Americans have health insurance, our entire country will be less healthy.
Labrador defended himself in a statement on Facebook by saying that he was "was trying to explain that all hospitals are required by law to treat patients in need of emergency care regardless of their ability to pay and that the Republican plan does not change that." Labrador assumes that people who need life-saving care can even get to the hospital. He also ignores the management of chronic conditions that can be life-threatening: Simply not being able to afford prescription medication can kill people. And, you know, cancer screenings that can save lives.
Dear Raúl Labrador: No.
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