Graham-Cassidy Bill Does Not Care About Me

pillsby Frank A. Thomas

I was taking care of my health and doing what I love to do – simply playing pickup basketball on a Sunday afternoon at the YMCA. Unfortunately, I was injured, and it sent me down the path of potential spine problems, including expensive doctor’s visits, physical therapy, chiropractor, pain management, medication, acupuncture, etc. – all of which was made possible by my healthcare insurance. Despite the ever-increasing cost, I am fortunate to have health insurance from my employer. At this point, barring losing my job or some other unforeseen event, I am privileged to present in the time of need an insurance card to receive professional health care services.

I am afraid to even begin to think of what would have happened if I did not have access to healthcare. I might have gone to the Emergency Room, or not engaged professional healthcare at all. I might have even tried home remedies for a condition that needed professional attention or neglected my health because of cost, which would have put my family’s future at significant risk. I would like every person and family to have what I have: the opportunity to see a doctor without the worry or burden of the cost destroying my financial life.

I believe that healthcare is a God-given right. I believe that every person is made in God’s image and therefore has a right to access to healthcare. In keeping with my faith, I continue asking why is it in one of the richest countries in the world that we are not able to figure out how to provide healthcare for all. And on top of not figuring it out, some want to go in completely the opposite direction and take away the access to healthcare that many already have.

I believe that the attempts to dismantle a system that seeks to, however imperfectly, provide health care for as many as possible is unconscionable. It sickens me (no pun intended) that we have another attempt with the Graham-Cassidy Bill to rollback significant gains in healthcare for all. I will not debate the merits of Graham-Cassidy, except that it is an attempt to revise one-sixth of the American economy without transparency, hearings, actuaries, diversity, civic engagement from the public, and input from the broad cross of business, religious, and healthcare professionals. This bill was designed under the cover of darkness in the attempt to keep a campaign pledge based on falsehoods and untruth. Once Americans discovered, despite the campaign propaganda, that “Obamacare” and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were the same thing, all of a sudden the majority of Americans were in favor of it. There are many false rationalizations and even outright lies that are pawned off as reasons for the support of Graham-Cassidy. I would like to discuss one of them: the rationale that the free market is the best way to handle health care coverage.

I believe that lovers of the free market ideology ignore or underestimate the power of greed in human beings. Whenever free markets reign unfettered, the fact is that a few people end up with access and resources and large majorities of people have virtually nothing. Most free marketers, not all, will not face the reality of human greed and the fact that free markets never, or at least have not yet eradicated poverty. I simply do not believe it is profitable to cover everyone with healthcare, and as a result, the free market never will. In the words of a Negro Spiritual, “If religion was a thing that money could buy, the rich would live and the poor would die.” Under Graham-Cassidy, the rich would have healthcare and the poor would die.

On the other hand, what those who laud government providing a social safety net often ignore is the tendency of some people, not all, to find ways to defraud, abuse, and become dependent on the safety net system. There are always people who will take advantage, though the proclivity to abuse health care coverage, albeit prescription drugs, is much less prevalent. This is why the Bible says: If a person will not work, they should not eat.” Dependency of the safety net is as much a factor in human nature as is greed.

If the free marketeers would join with the government safety net crowd, we might be able to come up with a bi-partisan healthcare program that balances and guards against greed and dependency. But that is not possible because Republicans are determined to push this “campaign promise bill” through to satisfy the base. I believe that we should hold these Republicans to account at the ballot box. I will do all I can to ensure that Republicans have the fight of their lives at the mid-term elections because this Bill does not help people, but serves political ends for one base of the electorate. A bi-partisan solution to fix and improve the Affordable Care Act makes the most sense to help the most Americans and why the Graham-Cassidy Bill will have only 17% approval from the American people. The American people know what is best and the only things that allows one to ignore the American people is blind ideology.

Delos M. Cosgrove, MD & CEO & President of Cleveland Clinic of Cleveland Clinic, the outstanding # 2 hospital in the country, and one that has been so instrumental in my healing says this: “The state of our nation is only as good as the state of our health.” These politicians have no regard for the health of our nation despite their claims to the opposite. Without healthcare coverage, I would not be on the road to recovery. I would still be limping and in massive pain every day. What’s more, I now have a pre-existing condition. The Graham-Cassidy Bill does not care about me.

Frank A. Thomas is a contributor for R3

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