Recall, if you will, the words of Cathy McMorris Rodgers, uttered in a press conference in the Capitol on Jan. 10:
“Let me be clear. No one who has coverage because of Obamacare today will lose that coverage. We’re providing relief. We aren’t going to pull the rug out from anyone.”
This was a surprising, even shocking, statement from McMorris Rodgers, who is part of a team whose goal has always clearly been based on just that: yanking that rug, hard, to lower taxes for the wealthy.
But, because this is a difficult thing to come right out and say in decent company, McMorris Rodgers and her fellow House repealniks have danced and dodged, finessed and fudged, omitted and insinuated that what they’re doing will not be bad for the millions and millions of Americans who obtained health insurance under Obamacare.
Her statement on Jan. 10, though, was of a different order than the usual slip-sliding. It was a clearcut, seemingly humane, recognition of a sense of responsibility for the potential effects of what she and her fellows were trying to do.
Which is probably why it didn’t seem even remotely true. That was confirmed later the same day, when a spokeswoman for the congresswoman launched the moonshot of oily political weaseling: McMorris Rodgers, the spokeswoman said, had misspoken. She meant to say “people who are covered under Obamacare will not lose coverage the day the bill is repealed.”
Ah yes. The day of. After that, though …
In fairness to the congresswoman, it’s very difficult to smoothly and believably claim that up is down and sickness is health. She tries hard, but may never master it. The likely truth of the matter, which was made predictable as the GOP tried to replace “coverage” with “access to coverage” as the social baseline, was more clearly stated this week by the Congressional Budget Office: The replacement plan that McMorris Rodgers and her team devised will result in 24 million Americans losing health coverage in the next decade.
In the first year that figure is 14 million.
The CBO also estimated that the House plan would cut the deficit by $337 billion over the next decade. These savings are a direct result of the rug-yanking – less spending on health care for the poor and elderly, less support for small business owners, and savings resulting from people who are no longer covered by insurance, by choice or not.
The CBO report, which the GOP was taking great pains to criticize even before it arrived, paints a bleak picture of the House proposal, but it must be said that it also paints a picture that is convergent with the goals of the legislation. Save money, help fewer people. No amount of fancy verbal footwork – not by McMorris Rodgers or anyone else – can hide the truth of that.
The House proposal seems highly unlikely to actually pass, gathering opposition from seemingly everywhere but the insurance industry, including plenty of outspoken pushback from the Senate. But the fact that this is what the House came up with after voting to repeal Obamacare seven million times over seven years tells you what you need to know: They gave very little thought to anyone standing on the rug they planned to yank, though plenty of thought to how to pretend like they did.
McMorris Rodgers’ seeming obliviousness to the needs of people here in Eastern Washington is acute, given how much people here have benefited from expanded health insurance. Poor, rural Washingtonians under age 65 are the group most likely to have become newly insured under the ACA, and they’re also the ones most likely to die from disease at a young age, according to a Seattle Times analysis of Washington’s 10 health-care regions.
The Timberlands district in southwestern Washington showed the largest percentage of Obamacare insurance increases – 18 percent of the population obtained insurance through the exchange or Medicaid expansion in 2015. That five-county region also had the highest death-by-disease rate among people under 65, at 217 per 100,000, according to the Times.
The Spokane region – which includes six northeastern counties – was second highest for the disease rate among people under 65, at 178 per 100,000, and had the second-highest rates of newly insured residents under Obamacare. In 2015, 17 percent of the region’s population obtained insurance through Obamacare, or roughly 84,000 people.
In other words, lots more of the sickest, neediest people in our state have insurance now. The sickest are getting more help.
They’re the ones standing on that rug McMorris Rodgers was talking about.