Reprinted with permission from Alternet.
In 2009, Rep. Alan Grayson characterized the Republican approach to health care as “don’t get sick, and if you do, die quickly.” Eight years later, the Florida Democrat’s words ring truer than ever, especially in light of the House’s passage of the American Health Care Act.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill would deprive 23 million of health insurance by 2026, resulting in substantial premium hikes and out-of-pocket expenses for older Americans and people with preexisting conditions. And the more Republicans are confronted with the devastating consequences of Trumpcare, the more evident it becomes how clueless they are on the Affordable Care Act specifically and health care more generally.
Here are nine of their most ignorant, uninformed comments from 2017.
1. Raul Labrador Claims That No One Dies From Lack of Health Insurance in the U.S.
Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, who voted for the AHCA on May 4, was booed at a recent town hall when he claimed that in the U.S., “nobody dies because they don’t have access to healthcare.” But according to a pre-Obamacare Harvard University study from 2009, lack of health insurance among Americans was leading to roughly 45,000 deaths annually—and the uninsured’s chance of dying from illness was 40 percent higher than Americans who were insured.
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris (formerly California’s attorney general) was quick to call Labrador out, saying it is well-documented that Americans do indeed die from lack of health insurance and that Labrador’s comment was akin to claiming that “people don’t starve because they don’t have food.”
2. Rep. Jason Chaffetz Compares Cost of Health Care to Cost of iPhones
If Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chair of the House Oversight Committee, were not enjoying top-of-the-line health insurance at the taxpayers’ expense, he might have an idea how much health care costs in the U.S. But judging from his comments during an interview with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota in March, the Utah Republican hasn’t a clue. “Americans have choices, and they’ve got to make a choice,” Chaffetz told Camerota. “And so maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to spend hundreds of dollars on, maybe they should invest in their own health care.”
The notion that Americans would be better able to afford health care if only they would buy fewer iPhones is asinine: a high-end iPhone 7 sells for $769 total or $37.41 per month on a payment plan at Apple.com, while the average cost of individual health insurance in the U.S. was $6,435 per year in 2016, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In other words, the cost of even Apple’s priciest smartphones pales in comparison to what individual health insurance cost on average last year (although the ACA’s subsidies made it much easier for lower income Americans to afford those premiums). iPhone prices are also a fraction of the type of out-of-pocket costs millions of Americans could be facing if they are rendered uninsured by Trumpcare. In the International Federation of Health Plans’ 2013 Comparative Price Report, bypass surgery costs $75,345, hip replacement surgery costs $26,489, and a C-section goes for $15,240.
3. Warren Davidson’s Message to the Sick and Dying: Get a Better Job
After Chaffetz’ embarrassing interview with Camerota, one would think Republicans would avoid ludicrous analogies. But in April, Ohio Rep. Warren Davidson showed his cluelessness at a town hall when a woman voiced concern that Republicans’ desire to kill Medicaid expansion would leave her son, who works in the service sector, dangerously underinsured. Davidson’s callous response: her son should get a better job.
“If he doesn’t want a catastrophic care plan, don’t buy a catastrophic care plan,” Davidson told her. “If you don’t want a flip-phone, don’t buy a flip-phone.” The woman responded, “I’m sorry, health care is much different than a cell phone—and I’m tired of people using cell phone analogies with health care.”
4. Mo Brooks Equates Illness with Immorality
Prosperity theology is an odious strain of Christian fundamentalism that equates affluence with morality and poverty with immorality. Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks’ comments in support of Trumpcare during an April interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper were right out of the prosperity theology school of demonizing the poor. Brooks told Tapper he has no problem with Trumpcare charging Americans with preexisting conditions much higher premiums, “thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives. They’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy.”
In essence, Brooks was saying that illness is god’s way of punishing the poor for their sinful ways—an idiotic statement considering millions of people are born with preexisting conditions such as Type 1 diabetes, asthma, hemophilia or severe allergies, through no fault of their own.
5. Mick Mulvaney Vilifies Diabetics as Lazy and Irresponsible
Mick Mulvaney, director of management and budget under President Trump, recently came under fire for attacking diabetics during a speech at Stanford University. Explaining why he is fine with insurance companies punishing Americans for preexisting conditions, Mulvaney insisted that the U.S. is under no obligation to “take care of the person who sits at home, eats poorly and gets diabetes.”
The American Diabetics Association didn’t hesitate to call Mulvaney out, saying, “All of the scientific evidence indicates that diabetes develops from a diverse set of risk factors, genetics being a primary cause. People with diabetes need access to affordable health care in order to effectively manage their disease and prevent dangerous and costly complications. Nobody should be denied coverage or charged more based on their health status.”
6. Roger Marshall Claims That America’s Poor ‘Just Don’t Want Health Care’
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act of 2010, aka Obamacare, the number of Americans without health insurance has reached an all-time low. Millions of Americans who could not afford health insurance or were denied it because of a preexisting condition gained insurance. But according to Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall, Medicaid expansion under the ACA should end because “there is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves.”
Marshall, in a March interview with STAT News, claimed, “The Medicaid population, which is (on) a free credit card as a group, do probably the least preventive medicine and taking care of themselves and eating healthy and exercising.” If Marshall bothered to do some research, he would know that low-income adults in states where Medicaid was expanded under the ACA became quite proactive about their health, seeking preventative care and making fewer trips to emergency wards.
So yes, the poor do want health care, and the more Republicans they vote out of office, the healthier they will be.
7. President Trump Praises Australian Health Care System, Failing to Understand Why It’s Superior
When President Trump met with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on May 4, he praised Australia for having “better health care than we do”—ironic considering Australia has taxpayer-funded universal healthcare. The Australian health care system, as Sen. Bernie Sanders pointed out in response to Trump, is the polar opposite of what House Republicans voted for on May 4.
If Australia implemented something along the lines of Trumpcare, there would be mass protests in the streets of Melbourne and Sydney. And while Trump is absolutely correct in stating that Australia has a better health care system than the U.S., his comment was—as Sanders pointed out—painfully devoid of context.
8. Steve Scalise Falsely Claims That Trumpcare Does Not Discriminate Against Preexisting Conditions
After the House of Representatives passed the AHCA on May 4, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise claimed that under Trumpcare, “nobody can be charged more than anybody else” for a preexisting condition. It was a brazen lie. Trumpcare, unlike Obamacare, would most certainly give states the option of letting insurance companies charge much higher premiums to anyone with a preexisting condition. The guaranteed issue plans of Obamacare, for example, make no distinction between a 55-year-old cancer or diabetes patient and a 55-year-old who has never had cancer or diabetes; the cost of the plan is the same. Trumpcare does allow insurance companies to make such a distinction, and Scalise is being totally disingenuous when he claims otherwise.
9. Ted Cruz, Jim Jordan Claim Canadians Are Coming to U.S. in Droves for Health Care, Without a Shred of Evidence
For decades, Republicans have been repeating the bogus talking point that Canadians are coming to the U.S. in droves for treatment because they detest Canada’s universal healthcare system—and that lie persists in 2017. Sen. Ted Cruz repeated it during a debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders on CNN earlier this year, and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan repeated it when he was being interviewed by MSNBC’s Ali Velshi.
Canadians visiting the U.S. for healthcare is the exception rather than the rule, and the myth that Canadians are invading U.S. hospitals in huge numbers has long since been debunked. In 2002, the National Population Health Survey took a comprehensive, in-depth look at Canadian health care and found that out of 18,000 Canadians surveyed, only 90 had received healthcare in the U.S.—in other words, less than 1 percent. Steven Katz, lead author of the survey, recently told Vox that even if huge numbers of Canadians did prefer the U.S. healthcare system, they could not afford it because U.S. prices for treatment are “extraordinarily high” compared to Canada and other countries.
Alex Henderson’s work has appeared in the L.A. Weekly, Billboard, Spin, Creem, the Pasadena Weekly and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.
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