BETTING ON SELFISH

1. It’s Friday, June 23, 2017.

2. It’s the 50th anniversary of the Glassboro Summit between President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin – who really was a second fiddle to party leader Leonid Brezhnev, but I don’t think that was understood by the average American.

We thought this meeting at Glassboro State College in southern New Jersey was a big deal at the time. It is largely forgotten now.

3. If you want to understand the Senate health care bill, all you have to do is read Tami Luhby’s story on CNNMoney.  No one knows this issue better. There’s also this one written by Tami and Jeanne Sahadi – two of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with.

So I won’t burden this post with details about the bill. Read Tami’s story, and then see if you agree with the following:

4. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are betting on one thing – the selfish streak in a lot of Americans.

They’re betting on people who have enough money that health care isn’t a burden, although there are very few folks on that list. If you’re ill enough, the cost is astronomical. But that’s not catastrophic for people with worths of eight, nine, 10 or even 11 digits.

They’re also betting on healthy young people. And not just those who don’t get sick at this point in their life.

If you’re my 22-year-old son, you might wonder why you have to pay for maternity care coverage, as mandated by Obamacare. If you’re my 26-year-old daughter, you might wonder why you have to pay for wheelchairs and crutches when you’re a Crossfit fanatic.

The answer is that if everyone has to get coverage for ten categories of essential services, it makes it cheaper for all who have to use them. It’s the way insurance works.

And, at some point, we all have to use at least one of them. So maybe you’ll never need mental health care, but you might break your leg on a ski slope or get hit by a car. The essential benefits provision is there for you, too.

There’s no way to eliminate all the costs. But they can be limited, and that’s what the Affordable Care Act attempts to do.

So to say that people who don’t need certain benefits shouldn’t have to pay for them is positioned as an appeal to help Americans keep their hard-earned dollars. It’s not. It’s an appeal to selfishness – you should only spend on services that help you and not the community at large.

By allowing states to waive the essential benefits, the Republicans hope to whittle away at the good the Affordable Care Act has done. Americans generally like it now, after years of lamenting it, because – for the most part – it has delivered on its promise of getting more coverage for more people.

And for those who had employer-supported health care, it made sure they got the best possible coverage – no preconditions, no lifetime caps, kids covered until they’re 26, free annual checkups and more.

This is all before you consider what the cuts to Medicaid would do to those who rely on that program – mostly the elderly and the poor. Those cuts are just plain immoral.

5. What’s got me worried is that Democrats remain on their heels.

Yes, they’re defending Obamacare and mobilizing their constituents. They’re urging people to lobby those Republicans queasy about the Medicaid cuts – they need three to stop this from happening.

Forget Rand Paul and those conservative clowns like Ted Cruz. They’re interested in making this bill worse. They’ll fall in line like the tame seals they are.

It’s Republicans like Dean Heller of Nevada who’s got the pressure on him. He’s up for re-election next year in a state that Hillary Clinton won last year. The Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, supports the Medicaid expansion the McConnell bill ends.

Heller said today he can’t vote for this measure.

That’s too tentative.

What Democrats need to do is go after the moderate votes with a plan of their own. To work with some of them to address some of the concerns they have with Obamacare and find a way to make it better.

They have to lobby as hard as McConnell and the Republicans will lobby for their monstrosity.

In this fight, Democrats can’t just say no. They need to assert themselves as the party of ideas – this is true for issues besides health care. They need to get people to say that “Yeah, that makes sense” when coming up with ways to make health care more available and more affordable.

I’m not sure what those ideas are. But I’m sure smart Democrats in the Senate do.

Now’s as good a time as any to get going.

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