We have limited hopes for this editorial. Consider, after all, what the Republicans in Congress have already ignored in their hi-ho-Silver gallop to repeal the Affordable Care Act and dismantle the American health-care system as we know it.
In as few as 24 hours after this paper goes to press, the U.S. House of Representatives could vote on the American Health Care Act, the first crucial step in the GOP’s gambit to, essentially, cut health benefits for the poor in order to give the rich a tax break. They are bringing this flawed legislation to the floor after just four weeks of “debate,” despite a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office showing that 24 million people could lose coverage over the next 10 years if it becomes law, and that in the short term at least, everyone can expect skyrocketing premiums as the insurance market reacts to the (unnecessary) disruption. Locally, three of four Republican members of Congress representing Washington have signaled support for the plan, even though a local analysis found that 700,000 Washingtonians will lose health coverage under it. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, the only member of the ruling party representing King County, has ignored reasonable requests to meet his constituents in an open forum to discuss this life-and-death legislation. Speaking of King County, 200,000 of its residents are likely to lose coverage under the plan.
The legislation, if passed, would still require Senate approval before moving to the president’s desk. But even if it fails in that higher house, passage by Reichert and his cohort would send a clear message to their supposed constituents: They are not listening.
For Republican leaders, ignoring is bliss. So, no, we at Seattle Weekly don’t hold high hopes that our opinion on the matter will change the score.
Yet an issue of accountability is at stake here as Republicans—including Reichert—jam their fingers into their ears and charge ahead with their slipshod plan. Just because they’re ignoring the disastrous fallout that awaits their ill-conceived new law doesn’t mean everyone else should. And we are not.
Like other papers, Seattle Weekly has heard from scores of people across Washington desperate to have their voices heard before it’s too late. Kaeley Pruitt-Hamm, a native of Colville, north of Spokane in Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ district, sent us a video in which she described how the Affordable Care Act allowed her to get insurance, and thus health care, for a debilitating nervous-system illness. “A lot of people don’t have the physical ability to march in the streets or go into [Congressional] offices,” she said, “so that’s why we’re making this video. To let their voices still be heard and let members of Congress feel the urgency and life-or-death nature of this situation.”
Dave Pierot, a Snohomish resident and constituent of Reichert’s, wrote us: “The proposed cuts to Medicaid will wreck our state budget and hurt people in our community who are already struggling to make ends meet… . This must be stopped or we all suffer for years!”
Matt Buckmaster of Bellingham writes: “The people cutting America’s health care under the banner of reform have never had to worry about care for themselves of their families. Congress should focus on expanding coverage for more working people, not putting high-quality care out of reach.”
These are all reasonable points. Would that our Republican congressional delegation provide an honest response, or at least listen to them. Instead, all we get are half-assed written statements, like the one Reichert sent to The Seattle Times last week after the CBO report came out. After dubiously suggesting that people who lose coverage under the Republican plan would do so voluntarily (in fact, the CBO projects that 14 million will unwillingly lose coverage due to the $880 billion in Medicaid cuts over the coming decade), Reichert wrote that this bill was “just the first step in our plan to provide Americans with more affordable, patient-centered health care.”
If this is in fact the case, one might rightfully ask why the Republicans’ first step in health reform amounts to tax cuts for the rich and cuts in coverage for the poor. One might ask why these multiple steps that Reichert speaks of are not being passed in a deliberate, comprehensive way, as the Affordable Care Act was deliberated on over 13 months, as compared to the Republicans’ intent to pass something in three.
One might ask. But one would be ignored.