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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

The White House and Republican congressional leaders are eyeing even more draconian measures to destroy the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, according to news accounts this week. Their first attempt failed after the far-right House Freedom Caucus did not think $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next decade to the ACA and Medicaid was sufficient. Now a task force led by Vice President Mike Pence is considering new concessions.

They would let states seek exemptions from certain ACA mandates, including a requirement that insurers cover 10 essential health benefits and the law’s ban on denying coverage or overcharging people with pre-existing conditions, according to the Washington Post. Another Post report said federally subsidized “risk pools” for the sickest people is also on the table.

While outlets such as Politico detailed how subsequent meetings between Pence, President Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and their aides have descended into chaos after White House officials criticized Ryan’s progress, it is important to note what the country learned from the administration’s first effort to erase Obamacare and undermine Medicaid.

Andy Slavitt ran Medicare, Medicaid and ACA programs in the Obama administration. On his Twitter page, he asked, “What did we learn from the debacle to repeal the #ACA? What can’t we forget?”

Here is Slavitt’s list of 16 lessons not to be forgotten:

1. That Ryan and House leaders have no moral qualm taking away access to health care for 24 million people. None.

2. By the time the bill got done, it raised premiums 15-20 percent. Cut care from vets, stripped benefits, raised deductibles, hurt hospitals, cut 25 percent from Medicaid, which effectively ended our 1965 Medicaid safety net commitment, and robbed from the Medicare Trust Fund.

3. Even that was not enough for many in the House GOP, who wanted Americans to get even less, including no pre-existing protections. They still do.

4. Why did it almost pass? For some supporters of the bill, this was about expediency, some was about going along with leadership, some was ideology.

5. But the biggest reason is no fancy policy theory. It’s money: $1.2 trillion pulled from health care to pay for massive tax cuts for pharma companies, insurers, insurance company CEOs, tanning salons and medical device companies. And a $55,000 gift per millionaire.

6. Turns out, Americans don’t agree. Only 17 percent thought this was a good idea.

7. An encouraging number of Americans stood up and said they want this country to be a place where people band together to make things better for everyone.

8. Others, when they heard “repeal and replace” for seven years, simply thought that meant politicians were looking to improve affordability and coverage. They now know differently.

9. I spent a lot of time traveling the country talking to people during this time. Many people told me they felt like there was no chance Washington would listen to their concerns.

10. For good reason. An irresponsible timetable, no public hearings, no CBO score/discrediting non-partisan work, a dishonest representation of the facts, a disengaged White House giving thumbs up. The absolute worst of Washington.

11. For those reasons, the bill almost passed the House.

12. But it turns out that town halls, calls and visits to district offices and the capitol make a difference. And it turns out that even in a short window, facts do matter.

13. There are some who want a bipartisan path—in touch with most of the public.

14. Word is now the administration, with assistance from Congress, will sabotage the ACA instead. Lots of ways to do it. Not unlike enforcing an environmental regulation.

15. And many in Congress still harbor the hope of ending pre-existing protections and affordable coverage.

16. That is why, despite their initial failure, I cannot let them off the hook. It’s not over.

Slavitt’s lessons and takeaways are worth heeding, especially as the pressure returns for Congress to have a legislative success in its first 100 days—besides the Senate seating a right-wing Supreme Court justice. As Slavitt said and various media reported, the White House and Congress are wrestling with how to expand their attack on Obamacare and Medicaid. It’s not over yet.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).


This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

Sen. David Perdue

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) pulled out of his final debate against Democrat Jon Ossoff on Thursday —because he'd rather attend a Donald Trump campaign rally.

The Nov. 1 Senate debate was planned months ago, but Perdue's campaign said he could not participate as promised because he has been too busy doing his job.

"Senator Perdue will not be participating in the WSB-TV debate but will instead join the 45th president, Donald J. Trump, for a huge Get-Out-The-Vote rally in Northwest Georgia. For 8 of the last 14 days of this campaign, Senator Perdue went back to Washington to work for much needed COVID relief," his spokesperson John Burke said in a statement, referencing a failed attempt by Senate Republicans to pass Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) "skinny" $500 billion proposal.

"To make up for the lost time, Senator Perdue has over 20 campaign stops planned for the closing days of this race, and he is excited to welcome and join President Trump in Georgia before November 3rd to campaign for both of their re-election efforts," Burke added.

WSB-TV noted on Thursday that it offered Perdue's campaign other time slots to accommodate the Trump rally, but the overture was rebuffed.

Ossoff's campaign blasted Perdue's "cowardly withdrawal," saying in a statement that the move "says it all: David Perdue feels entitled to his office, and he'll do anything to avoid accountability for his blatant corruption and his total failure during this unprecedented health crisis."

The incumbent's decision to break his promise to debate came one day after a video of Jon Ossoff criticizing Perdue's anti-Obamacare record at a Wednesday debate went viral. As of Friday morning, a 72-second clip of Ossoff has been viewed more than 12 million times.

Perdue responded to that attack by making the odd claim that he repeatedly voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act — which would take insurance away from hundreds of thousands of his constituents — because he believed doing so would cover more people.

"I voted against the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, because it was taking insurance away from millions of Georgians. Today almost 18 percent of Georgians don't have any health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act," he falsely claimed.

This is not the first time Perdue has put Trump ahead of the interests of Georgians. According to FiveThirtyEight, he has voted with Trump about 95 percent of the time, including backing his right-wing Supreme Court nominees, his tax cuts for large corporations and the very wealthy, and his repeated attempts to take money from military families to pay for a massive Southern border wall.

Medical experts and data analyses have suggested Trump's rallies have been super-spreader events for the coronavirus. Trump has refused to adhere to social distancing rules or to require mask usage at the events and the mass gatherings have frequently been immediately followed by case spikes in the communities where he holds them.

One poll this week found that voters across the country said they are less likely to vote for Trump because of his "large, in-person campaign rallies where wearing a mask is not required of attendees."

The race between Ossoff and Perdue is considered a "toss-up" by election experts, and polls show it as virtual tied.

If no candidate gets a majority on Tuesday, the top two finishers will face off in a January runoff.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.