Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is doing his darndest to deliver on the nearly decade-old Republican promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. His latest attempt, the Senate bill that could go to a vote as early as this week, would lead to millions of Americans losing their insurance, and the proliferation of plans with high premiums and high deductibles. In broad strokes, it's the same as (or worse) the House's bill, which the Congressional Budget Office determined would leave 23 million Americans without insurance over the next decade compared to Obamacare.
Eager to put a bill on President Trump's desk, McConnell's rushed the legislative process, locking out Democrats, and crafting law behind closed doors. He's refused to meet with more than 15 patient groups, including the one that helped him walk again after he contracted polio in the 40s. He doesn't want a debate.
Which is a shame, because he'd find a worthy opponent in…Mitch McConnell. Back in 1990, he was running for re-election in Kentucky against Harvey Sloane, a physician and Democrat. Sloane was a credible challenger, and McConnell cut a campaign ad that put healthcare front and center.
"When I was a child and my dad was in World War II, I got polio. I recovered, but my family almost went broke," he said, over black-and-white pictures of the McConnell family. "Today, too many families can't get decent, affordable health care. That's why I've introduced a bill to make sure healthcare is available to all Kentucky families, hold down skyrocketing costs, and provide long-term care."
Those words are as true today as they were 27 years ago. Kentucky is one of the 31 states (and Washington DC) that expanded Medicaid, making about 440,000 low-income residents eligible for free health insurance. Lots of those same folks are worried have been worried since Trump's election about what Trumpcare will mean for them. The Senate bill would phase out the Medicaid expansion funds over four years, from 2020 to 2024, and start capping funds send to states via lump sums per enrollee. It would also tie the growth rate for these per capita funds to a less generous inflationary index. Together, these changes would result in either a cut in services, a cut in enrollees, or both. People who lose Medicaid could get a tax credit but would likely not be able to afford their $6,000 deductibles, as Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation explained:
Premiums would also go up by thousands of dollars for many older, middle income people across the country.
Affordable healthcare, this is not.
McConnell closed his 1990 ad with a narrator saying, "You don't have to be a doctor to deliver healthcare to Kentucky." Indeed, you apparently don't even need to consult with doctors or patient groups. But some Kentuckians (and lots of other Americans) are probably wishing Mitch McConnell would at least take a meeting with his younger self.