Editor's note: Don't need to be convinced? Scroll down to 'Call Your Senators.'
There's, uh, a lot going on in politics right now. The Senate Intelligence Committee hearings with fired FBI director James Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and reports that Donald Trump is being investigated for obstruction of justice have dominated the news cycle, but in the background of all this, Republican Senators have been drafting their healthcare bill basically in secret, and they hope to ram through to a vote without any public hearings. This bill will affect the lives of millions of people—including those with health insurance through their job—as well as the American economy, and not allowing public hearings or Democratic amendments is disgraceful and shocking.
Changes to the wildly unpopular House bill that Senate Republicans are allegedly considering include phasing out the end of the Medicaid expansion over three to seven years, as well as changing exactly which provisions of Obamacare states could opt out of. Under the House bill, states could choose to charge higher premiums to people with preexisting conditions, which isn't outright denial but people could and would be priced out of coverage. The Senate is allegedly taking out that provision, but it would leave in the one that says states can determine which health benefits are required. The upshot? "Insurers couldn't deny coverage to people with cancer, but they could refuse to cover cancer treatment," writes former Obama healthcare staffer Andy Slavitt in USA Today. A cheap health plan that covers almost nothing would be basically worthless to a lot of people.
If you're thinking I get my insurance through work, not the marketplace, this bill doesn't affect me, you are, in a word, wrong. (And also a little callous.) The Affordable Care Act banned annual and lifetime benefit limits for a category of 10 essential health services including prescription drugs and maternity and mental health care. If states choose to reclassify certain benefits as non-essential, insurers could bring back annual and lifetime limits. This affects work-sponsored health insurance because employers that operate in multiple states can choose which state's benefit rules they want to follow. The Center for American Progress released an analysis yesterday showing that this provision of the Senate bill could bring back annual limits for as many as 27 million Americans and lifetime limits for as many as 20 million.
In sum, these reported changes are NOT improvements, but they may be enough to get votes from moderates like Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Dean Heller of Nevada. There have been no public hearings about the bill and Mitch McConnell reportedly plans to hold a vote on the bill as soon as it gets a score from the Congressional Budget Office, which could be before the July 4 recess.
VICE recently spoke with Angel Padilla, the policy director at Indivisible, about how to fight the bill. Indivisible is targeting Republican senators from ten key states, the so-called Trumpcare Ten: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Maine, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Others have suggested focusing on a group of eight to 12 Senators. But the fact of the matter is that ANYONE who cares about millions of Americans losing healthcare while the rich get tax cuts should pick up the phone, even if they live in a Democratic state. Activists say the current level of pressure it not enough to stop the bill.
Here's what to do.
Call your Senators.
All 100 office phone numbers are listed here. Staffers track the number of phone calls received every day and calls literally make more noise than emails. If your Senator is a Republican, tell them you want them to vote no on any bill that would result in fewer people having insurance, raise premiums, or cut health benefits. (You can't just ask them to commit not to vote for the Senate bill because, right now, even they don't know what's in it).
Extra credit: Ask to speak to your Republican Senator's Health Legislative Assistant, as suggested by both Jon Favreau, former Obama speechwriter and co-host of Pod Save America, and Ben Wikler of MoveOn.org. Wikler shared a list of their names along with the numbers to call for each office as well as what to say.
If your Senator is a Democrat, make two asks: that they withhold consent and boycott all-nonessential hearings until there's a public hearing on the healthcare bill and, if there is no public hearing, that your Senator promise to fillibuster the vote by amendment. Again, phone numbers are here.
If you can't get through, text them.
A fax isn't as powerful as a call, but it's better than an email: your message will automatically get printed out. And, no, you don't need a fax machine, Resistbot will do it all for you. Text "RESIST" to 50409 or message Resistbot on Facebook and it will walk you through the steps to fax your Senator and will tell you when your fax has been delivered. It is supremely easy.
Extra credit: Do this in addition to calling.
Overall extra credit: Call Orrin Hatch to request a public hearing.
In addition to calling both your Senators, red or blue, Jen Hoffman's most recent action checklist also suggests calling Senator Orrin Hatch to request a public hearing on the bill. You don't have to live in his home state of Utah to do this, since he is the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees healthcare policy and has jurisdiction over Medicare and Obamacare's taxes. The Senate Finance Committee office number is 202-224-4515.
Let's rally folks, this is literally life or death for many of your fellow Americans.
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