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Wednesday, Sep 20, 2017
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Ruth: A frank conversation on health care

'I'm confused about all this health care stuff."

"Take a number, Bunky. How can I help?"

"Let me see if I understand this. Recent surveys show most Americans support the existing Affordable Care Act. But the Republicans want to gut it and replace it with their own bill that would reduce coverage, increase premiums and essentially toss as many as 15 million people off the Medicaid rolls. And they call that progress?"

"Well, this is Washington, sport, where common sense is on the same flat line as Old Yeller's pulse."

"But Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell still wants to call a vote on the GOP plan?"

"That's the idea."

"But there have been no committee hearings on the Republican bill, no input from doctors, or hospitals, or drug companies, or the insurance industry, or even the states that would have to implement a measure that would impact about a sixth of the nation's economy. And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analysis of all this jibber-jabber suggests you would get a better health care coverage in Bangladesh than what the Republicans are proposing. That seems a bit, uh, nuts?"

"Who cares what they think? They are only big party-poopers who are only going to complain about how expensive it is to care for people in need, while the prevailing argument in the Senate is what a bunch of shiftless losers all those sick people are. Actually, the Republicans have consulted the only people who really count — the 1 percent of the 1 percent of the swells in this country who are plenty steamed over having to pay a little extra in taxes to help pay for Obamacare. Why can't all those lowly wheezers go out and inherit millions of dollars like the Koch brothers did to cover their medical expenses?"

"Surely the Republicans aren't that heartless. After all, didn't Sen. Ted Cruz come up with a plan to provide insurance to sick people?"

"Oh yes he did. The yellow poseur of Texas cooked up an idea that would put all the really, really sick people into a separate insurance pool where they would have to pay astronomical premiums and face enormous deductibles before receiving any services, while creating another more reasonably priced insurance market for healthy folks. Think of it as the Death Panel Act of 2017."

"The sick people don't get anything?"

"Oh yes they do! Under the Cruz model, after paying out the nose they would be entitled to a single Alka-Seltzer tablet to treat their pancreatic cancer — unflavored of course, unless you want to cough up (literally) more money."

"And yet McConnell, the Simon Legree of bedpans, still wants to push for a vote, even though a number of Republican governors have come out against the bill and insurance companies express reservations?"

"Apparently so. But McConnell has some real problems. Two Republican senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine, are against the health care bill. And a few others appear to be wavering. Then there is the John McCain issue."

"What's that?"

"The 80-year-old McCain had surgery a few days ago to remove a blood clot above his left eye and it could be several weeks until he's well enough to return to Washington to vote on the GOP health care bill."

"Do I sense some irony here?"

"Oh you're a fast learner, my friend."

"So as a sitting United States senator and a rather affluent gentleman by virtue of marrying well, John McCain has access to the finest possible medical treatment in the nation having his blood clot surgery performed by the Mayo Clinic."

"You're catching on."

"And yet, McConnell sees McCain's vote as critical in trying to pass a health care measure that will impose draconian cut-backs in providing health care to tens of millions of less well-off and especially older Americans in order to appease the silk-stocking crowd."

"That's about right."

"So what would happen under the Republican proposal if, say, a 62-year-old man earning about $30,000 a year was afflicted with the same blood clot that John McCain suffered? What kind of services could he expect to receive?"

"I believe they are called last rites, since the odds are the 62-year-old wouldn't even have access to a doctor to have his condition diagnosed."

"One more question. If this thing ever does get passed, won't it adversely target millions of people who voted for President Donald Trump? Won't they be a little annoyed?"

"Shush! You're not supposed to notice that!"

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