The Republicans’ health care hoax


This week, President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans began to dismantle Obamacare, and here are the details of their replacement plan:

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That captures the nonexistent Republican plan to replace Obamacare. They’re telling Americans who feel trapped by health care problems: “Jump! Maybe we’ll catch you.”

This GOP fraud is called “repeal and delay.” That means repealing the Affordable Care Act, effective in a few years without specifying what will replace it.

If the Republicans ran a home renovation business, they would start tearing down your roof this month and promise to return in 2019 with some options for a new one — if you survived.

And survival will be a real issue. The bottom line of the GOP approach is that millions of Americans will lose insurance, and thousands more will die unnecessarily each year because of lack of care.

The paradox of Obamacare is that it is both unpopular and saves lives. Preliminary research suggests that it has already begun saving lives, but it’s too early to have robust data on the improvements to life expectancy among the additional 20 million people who have gained insurance. It is notable that an Urban Institute study found that on the eve of Obamacare’s start, lack of health insurance was killing one American every 24 minutes.

One careful study found that the Republican health care plan in Massachusetts, which was the model for Obamacare, noticeably lowered mortality rates. For every additional 830 adults covered by insurance, one death was prevented each year.

The American College of Physicians warned this week that the GOP course could result in 7 million Americans losing their health insurance this year alone, by causing parts of the insurance market to implode. Back-of-envelope calculations suggest that the upshot would be an additional 8,400 Americans dying annually.

I’ve written about my college roommate Scott Androes, a fellow farm boy from Oregon, who switched careers in 2003 and didn’t buy health insurance on the individual market because it was so expensive. Then in 2011 he had trouble urinating and didn’t see a doctor because of the cost.

By 2012 he had blood in his urine and finally was scared enough that he sought medical help. He had waited too long: He had stage IV prostate cancer.

He died soon afterward.

That’s the system that the Republicans are trying to take us back to.

Americans spend two or three times as much on health care as a share of GDP as other industrialized countries but get worse outcomes. American children are 75 percent more likely to die in the first five years of life than British or German children, according to World Bank data. The reasons have to do partly with American poverty, and partly with the high number of uninsured.

Trump would have you believe that he will keep the popular parts of Obamacare, such as the ban on discriminating against pre-existing conditions, while eliminating unpopular parts like the mandate. That’s impossible: The good and bad depend on each other.

A full repeal of Obamacare would also worsen the deficit. The Congressional Budget Office said in 2015 that “repealing the ACA would increase federal budget deficits by $137 billion over the 2016-2025 period.” That’s more than $1,000 per American household.

Republicans spent $7 million investigating the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi and ultimately found no evidence of high-level wrongdoing. Now they are rushing toward a scam that may cost thousands of American lives every year.



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