Winning an easy election last year to a second six-year term in the U.S. Senate, Rob Portman ran as a so-called “commonsense conservative,” fighting government intrusion in or control over virtually everything that isn’t related to the military.
Carping on the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) – like all Republicans do who refuse to acknowledge how much the landmark bill passed in 2010 by then-President Barack Obama has done to help tens of millions of poor and low-income people afford minimal healthcare – Portman now finds himself at the crossroads of being a hero or a scoundrel in the battle to repeal and replace the ACA.
Analysis of the Better Care Reconciliation Act that Republican Senators led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are proposing to bring to a vote this week shows that it’s worse or “meaner,” than the draconian American Health Care Act (ACHA) House Republicans passed a few weeks ago over the outcries of many.
President Donald Trump repeats his mantra that Obamacare is “dead,” but most Americans say the program is working well on the national level and within their states, according to a monthly tracking poll released Friday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“Tens of millions of people will experience financial distress if this passes, and tens if not hundreds of thousands will die premature deaths, all for the sake of tax cuts for a handful of wealthy people,” Krugman said Friday.
If Republicans want to argue that the bill reduces health care costs, Krugman argues back in commonsense terms everyone will understand.
“It does nothing to improve the functioning of health insurance markets – in fact, it will send them into death spirals by reducing subsidies and eliminating the individual mandate. There is nothing at all in the bill that will make health care more affordable for those currently having trouble paying for it. And it will gradually squeeze Medicaid, eventually destroying any possibility of insurance for millions.”
McConnell’s misguided plan has Portman speaking in guarded tongues, like others in his caucus who have serious issues with the bill their leader wants to bring to vote after weeks of secret meetings Democrats were excluded from. To the great shame of Republicans, the bill won’t earn even one minute of debate in any public hearing.
With a simple majority vote coming as soon as this week, the numbers are so tight for passage that if just three Republicans bolt their conference leader’s call to come home to vote to end Obamacare, the current GOP healthcare bill will be DOA on Capitol Hill graveyard.
Portman’s commonsense conservative credentials have a historic moment coming to show whether he wants to be a patriot, by scuttling a bill that will make so many American lives so much harder, or whether he wants to be remembered as a scoundrel if he caves because his GOP buddies toss a few more dollars his way to tackle opiates running wild in Ohio and other states.
One Middletown City Council member wants the city to stop responding to overdose calls, if it’s legal to do that, because the cost is 10 times what was budgeted, and because “arresting people who overdose increases the burden on taxpayers and strains the court system,” the AP reports.
Will Portman bargain his soul for more government spending on his new, favorite topic – Ohio’s burgeoning opioid crisis that leads the nation in deaths per day from overdosing on prescription pain medications – or will he be a turncoat scoundrel by letting down hundreds of thousands if not millions of Ohioans whose life and death hang in the balance of whether the bill passes or not?
“If the final legislation is good for Ohio, I will support it,” Portman said, the Dayton Daily News reported. “If not, I will oppose it.”
Ohio’s junior senator in Washington backed a plan earlier this month to slowly phase out Medicaid expansion by 2027. Portman’s commonsense caution prompted him to say he has “real concerns” about the Medicaid policies in the bill.
The bill includes a one-year, $2 billion provision to provide grants to fight the opioid epidemic, which if sweetened more might be enough to convince him to abandon his commonsense undergirding to cast an uncommonsense vote for the bill that rips healthcare from tens of millions by redistributing about a trillion in taxes to pay for it to the wealthiest.
Like the House bill, the Senate Republican bill would sweep away most of the tax increases approved in 2010 to finance the expansion of health care.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a nonpartisan arm of the federal government, found that the House bill approved last month will decrease the number of people without insurance or government health coverage by 24 million by 2026. A CBO score of the Senate’s version of the AHAC is expected to be released this week before voting starts.
Meanwhile, Ohio’s senior senator in Washington, Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, isn’t conflicted enough that he has to issue guarded statements.
“Instead of raising prices on people over 50 and working families, we should be working together to lower costs, fight the opioid epidemic and make health care work better for everyone,” Brown said, adding the bill takes away the number one tool to fight against opioids – Medicaid treatment.
“We cannot allow Washington to rip the rug out from under Ohio communities,” he said.
A Harvard study found more than 220,000 Ohioans with addiction or mental health disorders now have coverage under the Affordable Care Act – 151,257 through the Medicaid expansion and 69,225 under private insurance purchased through the marketplace, Brown’s office said.
“Repeal would kick those people off of their insurance, potentially disrupting treatment services for hundreds of thousands of Ohioans as they are fighting for their lives,” he said.
Ohio alone spent nearly $1 billion last year on the opioid epidemic, with Medicaid covering 70 percent of the $939 million the state spent. Experts said a $45 billion investment won’t work, and the Senate bill is less than 5 percent of what the House bill calls for.
Portman has the power to be a hero or be a scoundrel. Do the right thing, Sen. Portman, not the politically motivated “right-of-center” thing, but the “commonsense right thing” to do for all Ohioans.