Earlier today, 217 Republican members of Congress voted to pass the American Health Care Act, a Trump-supported repeal of the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare). Congressman Tom Reed (R-NY) was one of those 217 — his shameful decision to put party politics over the health care of his constituents will irrevocably taint his legacy in Congress. The American Health Care Act is a misguided piece of legislation that, if enacted, could result in the loss of health care for tens of millions, increased premiums for the elderly, reduced protections for those with pre-existing conditions (encompassing everything from asthma to pregnancy to cancer to prior sexual assault), and signal the return of lifetime limits and reductions in employer coverage. This is a bad bill for America, and a bad bill for New York’s 23rd Congressional District.
The American Health Care Act is more regressive tax cut than health care reform. The Brookings Institution and Urban Institute estimate that the AHCA would result in an effective tax increase of $350 to $1,420 for families earning under $50,000 a year (50 percent of New York’s 23rd), with the largest increases hitting those with annual incomes under $10,000. At the other end of the spectrum, the AHCA will effectively lower taxes by an estimated $5,640 for families earning more than $200,000 annually (3 percent of New York’s 23rd). A vote for the AHCA is a vote to increase taxes on the least economically secure in our district while simultaneously giving thousands of dollars back to the wealthiest among us.
The AHCA cuts coverage, increases premiums and taxes and thrusts the one-quarter of Americans under 65 with pre-existing conditions (including an estimated one-third of the population of New York’s 23rd) into a state of constant and potentially devastating uncertainty. Major medical organizations, from the American Medical Association to the American Nurses Association to the AARP and the American Cancer Society, categorically oppose the AHCA. Simply put, there is no rational basis for this legislation.
There is, however, an irrational one. President Trump’s crippling insecurities have led him to aggressively seek any sort of legislative achievement, even one as damaging as the AHCA. Both the first and second attempts to repeal Obamacare this year failed — not because Republicans were worried about the 24 million who would lose coverage, but because they thought it wasn’t quite draconian enough — and the president could not stand to appear defeated on this issue. Trump wanted something, anything, that he could mindlessly trumpet, and Republicans like Tom Reed were more than happy to oblige.
Instead of recognizing that the American people were against this harmful bill, Republicans decided to sneak the AHCA through and hope nobody noticed. The bill was drafted in dark corners of the Speaker’s office. The text of the bill, with its various amendments, is still not public. The latest CBO report, sure to show the disastrous effects of the bill, has not yet been released. Unlike Obamacare, which passed through over 70 public hearings and markups over the course of a year, the AHCA was workshopped at zero hearings and subject to only one hour of floor debate. Republicans are afraid of what will happen when the American people learn exactly what they just voted for.
Why didn’t Congressman Reed wait for the CBO score? Why didn’t he wait until after recess to decide on his vote, so he could consult the people of his district before putting their health and finances on the line? Health care should not, and cannot, be a legislative football with which a floundering president can score some cheap political points. Congressman Reed claims to represent the 700,000 residents of New York’s 23rd, but it’s clear from today that Reed only has one constituent — the one sitting in the White House.