David Leonhardt, NYT

By David Leonhardt, Op-Ed Columnist, New York Times, June 8, 2017

 

Chances rising Senate will take away health insurance from millions.

James Comey’s testimony today will reveal President Trump’s blatant disregard for the rule of law, and Nick Kristof’s column offers an excellent preview.
I realize it will be hard to pay attention to any other political story this week, but I urge you to find the extra attention span, because there is another important, disturbing story developing: The chances of the Senate taking away health insurance from millions of people seem to be rising.
Yesterday, Mitch McConnell formally started a fast-track process for the Senate to consider the House’s health care bill. It’s true that Senate Republicans continue to poor-mouth their prospects for passing a bill, but that may actually be part of their strategy to do so.
They know that their health care plan is extremely unpopular. It’s a reverse Robin Hood plan that would take insurance away from or worsen coverage for the middle class, poor, sick and elderly and use the savings to cut taxes for the affluent. That’s why the plan is opposed by experts across the ideological spectrum, as well as groups representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, cancer patients, heart-disease patients and many others.
By downplaying the odds of passage, senators are able to reduce the amount of attention and public opposition that their deliberations might receive. Meanwhile, they are moving quickly and almost entirely behind closed doors to come up with a bill that makes only modest changes to the House-passed bill. Those changes are akin to “adding ketchup to rotten food,” as Andy Slavitt, who used to run Medicare and Medicaid, put it.
Democratic aides have grown especially worried that the Senate will pass a somewhat vague bill and then claim that they’ll fix any problems in a process known as conference — when the House and Senate negotiate over differences between bills that each have passed. Greg Sargent of The Washington Post has a good analysis of this possibility.
The whole game is distraction. The only way that the House could pass such an unpopular bill was to keep people from focusing on the substance of the bill, while rushing it through, and the Senate now seems to be following a version of that strategy.
If you care about Americans not losing their health coverage, what can you do about all of this?
Slavitt has some advice, as does Topher Spiro, a former Senate staff member.
It’s worth remembering that Senate Republicans can probably afford to lose only two members of their caucus, and they do face some internal tensions. They are also operating on a very short timetable, precisely because they want to minimize public debate.
Even amid the Comey testimony, and all of the attention it deserves, don’t let health care be forgotten. It’s too important.
Today also brings an election in Britain. At the bottom of the newsletter, you’ll find a collection of links to The Times’s coverage of that campaign, as well as Roger Cohen and Ross Douthat on the suddenly less unpopular Jeremy Corbyn. I also recommend Jeremy Gilbert in The Guardian on the same subject.
The full Opinion report from The Times follows, including the mayors of Paris and Pittsburgh on climate change.