OPINION | McConnell attempt to butcher ObamaCare is political malpractice

I must pay homage to that great American baseball player and twister of words, Yogi Berra. I thought of Yogi last week as America witnessed the turning, twisting and scheming of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. As Yogi quipped, “It’s de′jà vu all over again”.

Each time McConnell defended his healthcare proposals, another Republican senator publicly opposed his latest plan. Undaunted by a failed vote, McConnell devised a new plan. Within 48 hours, McConnell promised that Senate Republicans would vote to repeal and replace ObamaCare; repeal and later replace ObamaCare; and simply repeal ObamaCare.

{mosads}Another famous Yogi-ism came to mind. “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going because you might not get there.”


If it wasn’t for the fact that healthcare is such a serious issue for all Americans, this might be funny. But with an estimated 32 million Americans losing health insurance under McConnell’s latest plan, this is no laughing matter.

In addition to losing their healthcare coverage, Americans will also lose the critical consumer protections designed to level the playing field between consumers and health insurance companies found in the Affordable Care Act.

These protections embodied within ObamaCare include the Patient Bill of Rights, portability of health insurance and the elimination of health insurance policy rescissions without cause. Even President Trump admitted that healthcare is a much more complex and difficult issue than he anticipated.

Adding to the complexity of a healthcare solution is the fact that the 115th Congress has not held any public hearings on healthcare proposals. McConnell wrote the Republican healthcare proposal in secret. While he was forced to release the plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare, he still has not scheduled any public hearings on the legislation. McConnell knows that not only will millions of Americans lose their health insurance coverage but all Americans will be negatively impacted by the watering down of ObamaCare’s consumer rights and protections.

As Chairman of the Energy and Commerce, Oversight and Investigations subcommittee from 2007-2010, I led several congressional investigations regarding abusive practices in the health insurance industry. During these hearings, I was surprised and disappointed to learn that health insurance CEO’s could neither explain nor define the medical conditions that disqualified policy holders. Even more disturbing was the unapologetic testimony of these CEO’s stating that they would continue to rescind health insurance policies without cause absent a federal prohibition.

The brazen policy of rescinding insurance after a citizen became ill led Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) to declare “…that if in fact there is a practice of going in after the fact and canceling policies on technicalities, we have got to do whatever is possible to prevent that…If a citizen acts in good faith, we should expect the insurance companies who take their money to act in good faith also.”

Prior to ObamaCare, health insurance companies did not act in good faith — they acted on good profits. Health insurance companies, while collecting monthly premiums, constantly analyze a policy holder’s health insurance application and medical records. These analysts are financially incentivized to save the insurance company money by denying coverage to policy holders when it is literally a life and death situation. The alternative healthcare proposal offered by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) encourages states to offer high deductible, low cost health insurance policies without these consumer protections.

Congressional Democrats along with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) fought hard for consumer rights in healthcare legislation. While these Patient Bill of Rights were never enacted into law, these common sense rights are embodied in ObamaCare. Common sense, simple life saving measures such as the right to have medical decisions made by your physician, not the insurance company analyst; the right to consult medical specialists; the right to access the closest emergency room. Common sense also means a meaningful, prompt appeal to an outside neutral, third party when your health insurance carrier denies medical treatment or payment of an insurance claim.

Unfortunately, over the past seven years, repeal and replacement of ObamaCare has been based on political slogans and campaign pledges and not sound public policy. Americans have only heard disparaging, inaccurate comments and partisan political posturing regarding ObamaCare. No meaningful congressional debates or hearings have taken place. More than 60 percent of the current members in the U.S. House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate were not serving in Congress when ObamaCare passed in 2010. They were not present during the numerous committee hearings and debates on the Patient Bill of Rights, unjust rescissions of individual health insurance policies, or the portability of insurance.

Now we hear talk from Republican leadership about repealing ObamaCare and replacing it at a later date. That proposal is totally unacceptable and irresponsible. After 20 years in elected office, I know firsthand that “later” legislation promised to fix a problem never actually becomes law. Inexperience and a lack of understanding by our elected representatives regarding the serious, complex policy ramifications of a repeal vote of ObamaCare is not only inexcusable, it is political malpractice.

Former Democratic congressman Bart Stupak served 18 years in the US Congress from Michigan. He is the author of the book “For All Americans” which embodies some the principles articulated in this editorial. 

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags 115th United States Congress American Health Care Act Barack Obama Bart Stupak Health insurance Healthcare Healthcare reform debate in the United States Internal Revenue Code John McCain Lindsey Graham Mitch McConnell Mitch McConnell ObamaCare Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act replacement proposals Statutory law TrumpCare United States
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