Ford Vox: In same week of US $110 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia, CBO report showed GOP's Obamacare repeal will cut deficit by $119 billion.
Vox: Obamacare repeal trades quality health care for tax breaks; GOP budget plan sacrifices social safety net for military industrial complex
Editor’s Note: Ford Vox is a physician specializing in rehabilitation medicine and a journalist. He is a medical analyst for NPR station WABE-FM 90.1 in Atlanta. He writes frequently for CNN Opinion. Follow him on Twitter @FordVox. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
Arms for health care, anyone? With the help of his son-in-law, President Donald Trump just inked a $110 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office announced Wednesday that the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA) will cut the deficit by $119 billion.
The numbers are close, yet so far apart. One number is the yield from an arms deal designed to give the President something to celebrate on his international tour. The other number is equally random, the savings we’re expected to see from House Republican’s last-ditch effort to give the President something to celebrate shortly after his 100th day in office.
And these numbers tell you everything you need know about the administration’s priorities.
Now that we have the Congressional Budget Office’s report in hand, we see in the cold, hard numbers that the Obamacare repeal is worse than the original version that House Republican leadership backed out of on March 24. The bill’s initial failure proved humiliating for the President and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who ruefully declared that Obamacare would remain “the law of the land” for the foreseeable future.
But Ryan didn’t count on the White House’s desperation to pass something, anything that could bring together Freedom Caucus members and more moderate, business-minded conservatives. And no one could have predicted the two nutty and deceptive last-minute amendments that successfully arranged the marriage of far right and middle Republican representatives: a quality insurance opt-out option to delight red states and an $8 billion fig leaf.
The Century Foundation’s Jeanne Lambrew broke down what the AHCA is really about, a redistribution of wealth upward.
Describing the $8 billion set aside to support programs for people with preexisting conditions who won’t be able to access commercial insurance under the AHCA (which lets insurance companies return to the practice of jacking up prices on the sick), Lambrew explains that the money pales in comparison to the tax relief the bill is really designed to deliver.
Each $1 in spending for affordable health care is matched by “$4 on tax breaks for the pharmaceutical industry, $5 on tax breaks for health savings accounts that disproportionately benefit high-income people, $18 on tax breaks for the health insurance industry, and $29 on tax breaks for people with income above $200,000,” she writes.
According to the CBO, 14 million Americans will lose their insurance next year if the AHCA makes it through the Senate and onward to the President’s rubber stamp. And 23 million fewer of us will have health insurance 10 years from now than if Obamacare were left in place.
“It’s a horrible score because the AHCA is a horrible bill,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-California), a fierce administration critic, told me in an email. “The President lied when he said coverage for preexisting conditions would be guaranteed.”
Lieu says he is particularly concerned about the CBO’s analysis that older people who need ongoing medical care could see premiums increase by 800%. “That’s the equivalent of no insurance because it’s completely unaffordable,” he wrote.
The new CBO analysis comes just after the President’s budget proposal that wreaks havoc on the country’s social safety net, zeroing in on Medicaid in particular, a program most middle-class American’s don’t know they may need some day.
That is because Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care: it will support just 100 days of nursing home care, after which you’re on your own. Seven in 10 of us will need some type of long-term care in our later years, and many of us won’t be able to afford it.
That’s why millions of seniors rely on Medicaid to provide in home assistance or care in facilities. The same applies to yet millions more people with significant disabilities.
Note, then, that while the budget cuts tens of billions of dollars from welfare, disability benefits and Medicaid, it spikes military funding by $469 billion, and devotes $2.6 billion for the President’s promised border wall.
The President of the United States clearly feels deeply about the terrorist threat and protecting the “Homeland.” I think we all share the sentiment, regardless of party affinity, but Democrats seem to have a capacity to walk and chew gum that conservative Republicans lack.
Existential external threats have provoked the President and his party to spare no expense to fend them off with firepower, even though the battle with endlessly replicating male zealots who see fit to kill children at concerts cannot be won through brute military might.
Instead of the President’s increased military spending, we could halt the deep cuts he proposes to the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Social Security and food stamps, and we’d still have $175.5 billion left over.
We could apply those billions toward the gargantuan job of repairing our country’s standing among the peoples of the world in the wake of electing such a boorish President, and tracking the additional terrorist sympathizers his words have arguably helped breed.
As I look at a health care bill that trades away quality health care in favor of tax breaks for wealthy people and wealthy corporations, and a budget proposal that trades away our social safety net for a bigger military industrial complex, I think about how we’re always told Trump is a “transactional” president.
What are all the deals for? Why do we protect the homeland, why do we fight? If we are a nation that wants to put its elderly, its sick and its disabled on the street, while gilding its corporate class and shouting down the rest of the world, we are truly bankrupt.