Donald Trump hosted a celebration in the White House Rose Garden for House Republicans after they passed their party’s health care plan by the thinnest of margins. They were celebrating what Trump called a “win,” without any thought about consequences.
None of them had read the bill, which was released only a couple of days before the vote and rushed to the floor. The vote took place before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) could issue a revised assessment of its costs and effects.
House leaders and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney dismissed criticisms, saying that Senate Republicans planned to start all over anyway. This bill addresses one-sixth of our national economy, and an industry that has been a leading source of jobs growth. Don’t worry, say House Republicans, we just had to get the win. Forget about the substance.
Americans should be furious. The Republican bill will throw literally millions off health care, put people with pre-existing conditions at risk and raise premiums particularly for workers aged 50 to 64 – to give a massive tax break to the very wealthy.
Death for tax breaks
The richest 400 people in America will get a tax break estimated at about $7 million a year. To pay for that, millions will lose their coverage, and millions more – the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions in various states – will see premiums soar and insurance become unaffordable.
It’s not enough to say the Senate will fix it (the 13 White men – no women, no people of color – on the Republican Senate Working Group certainly will not). It’s not acceptable to say, “We don’t mean it; we just had to pass it.”
Why did they have to pass it? As Peter Suderman explained in the New York Times, Republicans must pass it because the top-end tax cuts in the health care bill are vital for their central goal: to deliver to their corporate and wealthy donors another massive tax cut in the next budget reconciliation vote. They must do the tax cuts in what’s called “reconciliation” because that allows them, under the obscure rules of the Congress, to pass the bill with only 50 votes – with only Republican votes.
The CBO’s estimate will show what we already know from its last estimate: Millions will lose their insurance, and the wealthy will pocket millions in tax cuts.
Here are the numbers
A former insurance executive, Richard Eskow, did the real math. He took the best estimates of how many avoidable deaths come from not having health insurance with the rollback of Medicaid and taking away protections for pre-existing conditions. He compared that to the tax cuts that would be pocketed by the 400 richest Americans – people who make on average over $300 million a year.
His estimate: Ten people will die under the Republican bill to give each of the 400 richest people in America a tax break. For every person who dies, they’ll pocket about $787,151.
As Eskow noted, those rich beneficiaries aren’t likely to know anyone who will lose his or her life because of being stripped of health insurance. And while the $787,000 isn’t much for a multimillionaire, it’s just the appetizer for the big take they will get out of the Trump tax cut plan that will follow.
Thirteen White rich men will now create the Republican plan in the Senate. They’ll decide how many millions to strip from health insurance to pay for tax cuts many of them will enjoy. They’ll decide whether to deprive low-wage women of Planned Parenthood’s health care services. They’ll decide just how many deaths are needed to cover the tax cuts for the very rich.
This is a morally indefensible, ugly piece of work. It is obscene to choose consciously to condemn low-wage workers or older workers to unnecessary illness and death to afford tax cuts for the already wealthy.
The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. is president and CEO of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.