Editorial: Muster Bipartisan Compassion to Fight Toxic AHCA

By:  Editorial Board
Source: The Seattle Times

KUDOS to U.S. Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Vancouver, and Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, for showing courage and compassion in voting against the American Health Care Act.

Although the cold-hearted attack on Obamacare narrowly passed the House last week, the two Republicans stood their ground and resisted intense lobbying from their party’s highest levels.

Let’s hope there are similarly brave Republicans in the Senate, which should give the far-reaching AHCA more deliberation and analysis than the rush-job it received in the House.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, a wholehearted plan supporter, has some explaining to do if she expects to win re-election next year.

Nearly half the children she represents in her Eastern Washington district stretching from the Canadian border to Oregon — 47 percent as of 2015 — depend on government health care because their families can’t afford other coverage, according to the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute. It notes that Obamacare —the Affordable Care Act that McMorris Rodgers calls a “disaster” and voted to repeal — led to historic levels of coverage for children.

McMorris Rodgers has faced family medical challenges. So it’s surprising that she voted to remove limits on out-of-pocket medical expenses and increase costs for those with pre-existing conditions.

Seniors are facing insurance-premium increases averaging $3,200, according to the AARP. The group notes that premiums for older people may increase five times more than for younger customers under the AHCA.

Even if AHCA was brilliant policy, the process to approve it last week is indefensible. The House rammed its final version through without objective analysis of its effect on millions of people.

The goal should have been fulfilling President Trump’s promises to have health insurance for everyone, make no cuts to Medicaid, prevent anyone from losing coverage and ensure that “nobody is worse off financially.”

Underlying arguments for AHCA are weak. Obamacare needs fixing, not gutting.

Should the government provide health care? Of course. The government for years has been the largest sponsor of health care.

Should the richest and healthiest people contribute more to ensure the sick and poor are cared for? It’s sad this is being debated. Supporters of AHCA — which cuts taxes for the rich while reducing help we provide to older and sicker people — must reconcile this with their faith.

Should people be required to have medical coverage? AHCA removes Obamacare’s irksome mandated insurance requirement and replaces it with a cudgel that may prove worse: People who let coverage lapse face a 30 percent rate increase when they next enroll. A better model is auto insurance, which is required in most states.

Universal health coverage is the standard in most prosperous, advanced countries that prioritize the general welfare of their people.

Obamacare did not go that far, but the laudable goal was to provide more affordable health coverage for everyone. AHCA threatens that progress, at the expense of people who most need help from government insurance.

Washington’s U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have vowed to block the AHCA in its current form.

This is noble, but to succeed they’ll need to find brave and compassionate allies across the aisle. They should simultaneously propose ways to improve and continue Obamacare so there is a clearer path forward.