Stop Ryan’s attack on America’s safety net

What kind of America would we have if we allowed Speaker Paul Ryan’s Obamacare Repeal Plan to pass?

According to the AARP, the Ryan plan to repeal Obamacare would dramatically increase healthcare costs for seniors.

Seniors would pay more for their healthcare, while getting less.

Standard and Poor’s says that between 6 and 10 million American non-seniors would lose their health coverage entirely under the Ryan plan.

Ryan, who has long advocated for the privatization of Social Security, now fights for an Obamacare repeal plan that also takes billions from Medicare.

Among many ways Ryan does this is by removing taxes on our wealthiest that Obamacare used, for example, to close the “donut hole” in the prescription drug program for seniors. Under Ryan’s plan, that “hole” in coverage for seniors’ prescription drugs comes back.

The Speaker’s plan also eliminates the Obamacare expansion of Medicaid to 14 million of our poorest citizens; including money to treat the drug addicted, mentally ill and working poor.

It also ends Medicaid’s guaranteed coverage for those lucky enough to keep it.

In his first address to a joint session of Congress, and during his presidential campaign, Donald Trump said that he would not cut Medicare or Medicaid, that he would only repeal and replace Obamacare if it would provide cheaper coverage to “all Americans” and that he would expand the treatment of opioid addiction. He said: “We will…lower the cost of health insurance.”

The Ryan plan that President Trump presently endorses, reneges on each and every one of those promises.

Firstly, it doesn’t lower the cost of healthcare insurance. That is one of the reasons why the very conservative Republican House Freedom Caucus opposes Ryan’s plan.  Just ask their Chairman, Mark Meadows (R-NC), who admitted to Fox News on March 7th that, if Ryan’s plan passes, “[healthcare insurance premium] prices go up….”

Just ask the AARP, the Joint Policy Center, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Nurses Association and many others who should know about caring for seniors and Americans who need healthcare.  They all vehemently oppose the Ryan plan.

Speaking of Ryan bill’s extremely damaging affect on America’s social safety net, Nancy Altman, Director of Social Security Works, said: “While Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans campaigned on undoing the Affordable Care Act, no one ran on undermining Medicare or Medicaid. No one ran on undermining the health security of seniors. But the so-called repeal and replacement of the ACA would do just that.”

Should Ryan and his Republican cohorts succeed in their harsh and cruel efforts, America would be a colder, more difficult country; a reality that most Americans would not want.

Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post describes the core of this debate as a “bedrock philosophical and ideological question that has always been in the background of any argument about the government’s role in health care: What is the minimum that society should provide for its poorest, most vulnerable citizens, and how much should be taken from the rich and powerful to do it?”

Under Ryan’s plan, America’s richest one percent get a $600 billion tax break over ten years. The other 99 percent share less than 1 percent of that number.

Republican economic historian, Bruce Bartlett, who served in both the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, says that the Ryan Republicans are not only rejecting the merit of a social safety net, but of any kind of social insurance at all:  ” [They] argue that redistribution is inherently immoral without acknowledging that the very nature of insurance is per se redistributive. You’re taking money from people whose houses don’t burn down to give it to the people whose houses do burn down.”

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare operate under this social insurance model.  They are mandatory programs requiring all to participate, in one form or another.

These programs help achieve the dream of our nation’s Founders and our Constitution’s Framers who sought, among several other righteous goals for our government, to “promote the general Welfare (sic).”

In 2009 and 2010, the Republicans in Congress insisted that the Democrats take their time in crafting Obamacare. There were 12 months of debate, input from Democrats, Republicans and Independents, hundreds of witnesses before the bill-writing committees, and thousands of town hall meetings, before the Congress passed and the President signed the Affordable Health Care Act. The first vote on the House bill did not even occur until seven months after the House committees of jurisdiction began discussion of the bill.

Ryan and his House Republicans first presented their plan on March 6, 2017.  As of this writing, their committees of jurisdiction have heard from no witnesses, and have yet to receive a price tag from Ryan or anyone else.

The have threatened to vote on it within four weeks.

When Obamacare was being crafted, Republicans insisted on process, precedent and prudence.  Now they say we should just trust them and President Trump.

You remember President Trump.  He’s the presidential candidate and president who said that he would have “health care for everyone,” that he would “never cut…Medicare or Medicaid.”

Then realize that Ryan’s Trumpcare will, among other very bad things, voucherize and shorten the life of Medicare and end Medicaid as we know it.

The only way out of this extraordinarily damaging, train-wreck-to-be disaster, is if the American people and their representatives stop this train now.

They must insist that the American people be allowed to take a closer look at it and then offer their opinions, just like the Republicans demanded when Obamacare was being drafted.

What is so ironic and painful, is that the average Trump voters will suffer the most if Trumpcare passes.  They will lose money or lose healthcare altogether. If they think they are financially insecure now, just wait and see what this Trumpcare will do to them, their friends and loved ones.

“2.2 million low-to-moderate-income Trump voters would lose the financial assistance for their health care coverage, which they receive today from Obamacare,” according to the self-described centrist think tank, The Third Way.

I served with Paul Ryan in Congress for 14 years.

He fought zealously to privatize Social Security. But a coalition of like-mined Democrats, Republicans and Independents stopped his efforts that would have resulted in devastating harm to our nation’s seniors. We stopped him then.

His new plan cuts money for Medicare and shortens that programs very life.  He eliminates the Medicaid guarantee for the poor, repeals Obamacare, makes millions of American citizens uninsured, and raises healthcare costs for all but the richest one percent of us.

In his March 8th interview, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson asked Mr. Ryan whether, “looking at the last election, was the message of that election really we need to help investors? I mean, the Dow is over 20,000,” Carlson said. “Are they the group that really needs the help?”

Should those wealthiest of investors, Carlson continued, “who’ve gotten the richest over the last 10 years,” should they be the extremely disproportionate recipients of your plan’s tax relief?  Ryan answered: “I’m not that concerned about it.”

We can and must stop Mr. Ryan again.

There is simply too much at stake.

Call and email your representatives in Congress to stop Ryan and this runaway disaster train, before it goes any further.

America can do better.

We must insist on it.

Steven R. Rothman, a Democrat, is the former US Congressman representing New Jersey’s 9th Congressional District from 1997–2013

About the Author
Hon. Steven R. Rothman served eight terms in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the 9th Congressional District of New Jersey (1997 to 2013). He is an attorney of 43 years and formerly served as the Bergen County Surrogate Court Judge and Englewood Mayor. He resides in Englewood, New Jersey.