Health policy ‘Team Mean’ hands off to ‘Coward Caucus’

Donald Trump didn’t just say the House-passed bill to replace the Affordable Care Act was mean. He called it “mean, mean, mean.”

That’s “mean” times three.

Interesting. When he invited the House White Caucus, er, Republican Caucus, over for a celebratory photo op after its passage, he said the bill was “incredibly well-crafted.”

But let’s give Trump credit here for saying something true – maybe a first. The House bill is well-crafted – for something so incredibly mean.

What this means is that Senate Republicans have a low bar to scale – or a high bar to limbo – as they take their own stab at wrecking health coverage in America.

They can take the cue that “mean” multiplied by just two will do.

That certainly appears to be the case from what we know.

Of course, what we know is minimal, for Senate leadership has been stirring this concoction behind closed doors, with the anticipation of putting it on the floor without a hearing, and with as quick a vote as possible.

One thing we know is that Republican senators are honing their propaganda skills for what emanates.

We know this from a statement from West Virginia Sen. Shelley Capito, who attempted to say that cutting off millions from Medicaid in seven years wouldn’t mean cutting them off. It would, said she, mean “transitioning” them from the health coverage on which they were relying.

Yes, one of the tools of the propaganda trade is the art of euphemism: hiding meanings with words, like “collateral damage” for a whole bunch of dead civilians and “enhanced interrogation” for torture.

Capito is considered a GOP moderate, and she is putting a nice spin on the fact that, apparently under this bill, states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA would have seven years to, um, transition all those millions of insured people over to, um, being uninsured.

Once again, we are only guessing at the Senate’s designs, because all discussions are being held behind closed doors, with the reported intent to have little to no discussion once the bill hits the Senate floor.

Hence, Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman has called the architects of this maneuver the “Coward Caucus.”

As Waldman observed, an aide to a GOP senator involved in the secretive process said, “We aren’t stupid.” The senators are hiding their cards until they can make their play. They know that the moment Americans find out what’s actually at play, they’ll burn up the phone lines.

In fact, they should be doing that right now (Capitol switchboard – 202-224-3121) and demanding that the Senate slow down and allow the public to see what’s going into the sausage.

It’s been said countless times that the Affordable Care Act was “rammed down Americans’ throats.” But it took over a year to write and approve, and the process involved hundreds of hearings and meetings, even a speech from President Obama about the legislation.

Additionally, Senate Democrats accepted 160 Republican amendments to the bill. What’s the chance that Republicans will accept Democratic amendments to this bill? Zero. Three times zero.

So, yes, this is cowardice, and the American people should not sit by idly as it happens.

We’ve seen a similar yellow streak from Republicans who have dodged town hall meetings with constituents, knowing they’ll get grilled foremost about health care.

You see, governing is not just think-tank slogans and what sounds good coming from Sean Hannity or Grover Norquist. Governing involves people. Governing affects people.

These wall-hugging chameleons offered their services to us, the governed, and part of the deal was to involve us in their decisions, to hear us out.

Call your senator and be heard. However, try not to sound too mean.

Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young now lives in Colorado.

jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

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