In other news, before we get started—President Trump took to Twitter today to confirm that there were no tape-recordings of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey; tapes he insinuated weeks ago he had.
Written when I was going to write about using self-tanner in preparation for New York Pride, and the realization that the healthy, sun-kissed glow I actually needed was for my soul—but more pressing matters have arisen.
This morning—Thursday June 22, 2017—the new healthcare plan was released after a cloud of mystery while it was being written in private by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a small group of colleagues. The bill’s mystery was protested by Democrats and Republicans alike, who feared that this bill would be introduced and forced into a hasty vote before anyone had a chance to read it. according to CNN, the bill will have a one-week-turnaround, meaning that McConnell hopes to get it voted on within a week.
After a disastrous first attempt to vote on the original bill, the American Health Care Act, in March (the bill was pulled when it became clear that there were not enough votes for it to pass), the revised bill passed in the House of Representatives in early May. The next step was to bring it to the Senate for a vote, where GOP lawmakers such as McConnell revised and reworked the bill in an attempt to get it to pass in the Senate. If it passes the Senate, and then gets affirmed by the House, the bill would go to President Trump’s desk and, at his sign-off, become law. We good?
So, this morning, the bill was released. CNN also released an article comparing the three (the ACA, the AHCA, and the new bill) on key issues such as Medicaid expansion, coverage for pre-existing conditions, essential health benefits, Planned Parenthood and more. If you’re too lazy to read the article, here’s the major breakdown on some issues.
The Senate bill provides “skimpier coverage” for pre-existing conditions in states that get waivers for “essential health beneifts.” It allows states to redefine essential health benefits, which under the ACA were required for insurers to cover. These include mental health, maternity care and prescription drugs. The Senate bill cuts funding for Planned Parenthood for one year, which isn’t a surprise because the AHCA did that as well. It eliminates tax cuts for the wealthy and for insurers, taxes the ACA imposed to expand healthcare coverage. The ACA put a 3.8% tax on incomes $200,000 and higher ($250,000 for married couples). It gets rid of the individual insurance mandate, keeps the ACA provision for young people to remain on their parents’ insurance until 26, and removes the employer mandate to provide affordable healthcare to their employees.
At the moment, the bill can only afford to lose the support of two Republicans, which would put it at 50-50 and require a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Pence. As of writing this, four Republicans said they would oppose the bill in its current form and two more have withheld support.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is expected to release their independent findings on the bill early next week, a key component for some senators while considering their vote. The CBO will look at how many people could lose insurance under the new plan (24 million in the AHCA, and 23 in the House version) and the effects on the overall federal budget (the House bill would reduce the deficit by $119 billion).
In the near future, the bill will go into several hours of debate as well as something called the “vote-a-rama” where senators can suggest amendments that are relevant to the dialogue. The vote-a-rama can potentially go on indefinitely, but is largely centered on how long it takes for the senators to burn out and get tired. After all of that, the bill goes back to the House for affirmation, and if the House votes yes on it, then it goes to the White House. At the moment, it’s unclear if there’s enough support in the House for the bill to pass.
In the meantime, the public is reacting. Several dozen protestors were arrested Thursday after they staged a “die-in” outside of McConnell’s office. The protest was organized by the national disability rights group ADAPT. The cuts to Medicaid would greatly reduce access to medical care and services for the elderly and disabled. According to the police statement, several protestors removed themselves to “lay themselves on the floor, obstructing passage through the hallway and into nearby offices.”