Editorials

Republicans’ healthcare plan is a classic case of class warfare

Miami Herald Editorial Board

House Speaker Paul Ryan stands firmly behind Republicans’ plan to replace Obamacare.
House Speaker Paul Ryan stands firmly behind Republicans’ plan to replace Obamacare. Associated Press

Read it and weep, but whatever you do, don’t get sick if you’re covered by Obamacare.

The Congressional Budget Office on Monday released its estimate on the real costs of the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act: 14 million people would lose health coverage in 2018 alone. That number would increase to 21 million two years after that, and then 24 million by 2026.

Republicans House leaders, who went so far as to hide drafts of their misbegotten plan from their own colleagues, sprung it on the public last week — after almost eight years of scorching the Earth in their quest to scuttle Obamacare and seeming incapable of coming up with a better plan.

This, their supposed healthcare masterpiece, is definitely not that better plan. In too many ways, it is the cruelest of jokes on millions of people who can least afford to be a punchline.

Without shame or remorse, Republicans have targeted low-income Americans, working-class Americans, disabled Americans and those who are mentally ill, or older — some of the very people who voted them into office. They are scared, now, and they should be — they are going to bear the brunt of the cuts in coverage, and therefore, quality healthcare. This stands to send health costs needlessly soaring as they seek once again in the costliest care — the emergency room.

The proposal has poor people squarely in its sights: Where ACA expanded Medicaid coverage to capture 11 million more Americans, the Republicans’ “American Health Care Act” would eliminate the expansion in 2020. Americans who signed up before then would be allowed to stay on, but many would gradually lose coverage if they leave the program because, say, their income goes up. Still, should it drop again, they would be ineligible to reapply for Medicaid.

The GOP’s plan would impose a per-person cap on how much federal funding is spent on coverage. It will be up to the states to make up the difference. Wonder how that will turn out.

Other gems: Americans covered through government-run health exchanges would see drastically reduced subsidies to buy it; insurers can charge older Americans up to five times as much as those who are younger; and the more affluent and businesses, whose taxes are integral to keeping Obamacare afloat, will reap $600 billion in tax cuts over a decade.

Yes, it’s class warfare, and Floridians, and especially South Floridians — and most acutely, residents of greater Miami — will be chief among the casualties. McClatchy Washington Bureau writers Lesley Clark and Tony Pugh reported in January that U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Carlos Curbelo, Frederica Wilson (a Democrat who opposes repeal-and-replace) and Mario Diaz-Balart have upwards of 366,000 Obamacare participants. Throw in enrollees in Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Alcee Hastings’ districts, and this community ranks among the highest in the nation in participation.

But pushback from Miami’s Republican representatives against their leaders’ plans has been tepid, focused still on the flaws — and there are flaws — of Obamacare. They, of all people, should speak with the authority of elected representatives whose constituents will suffer mightily under this plan.

If they don’t, they will confirm that, like their misguided colleagues, they have little insight in to the lives, the challenges and the needs of the people they are supposed to serve.

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