Tough health choices

Tough health choices
© Greg Nash

The GOP’s efforts to destroy healthcare for millions has hit a snag: the need to win elections.

After years of futility, Republicans finally unveiled a program that would eliminate health insurance for millions. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that 24 million people would face life-threatening cuts to health insurance over the next decade. Popular-vote loser President Trump’s own Office of Management and Budget came out with an even more dire prediction: 26 million. Ouch.

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Republicans tried to refocus from the human carnage to the billions of dollars the wealthy would save on their taxes over 10 years and the $3 billion in savings for Social Security. Of course, one reason Social Security would save money is that 17,000 Americans who would’ve lived under ObamaCare would die in 2018 thanks to the GOP plan, according to an estimate by ThinkProgress. By 2026, that number grows to 29,000.

Some silver lining.

If terrorists were causing that kind of carnage, no one would celebrate any budget savings. Yet Republicans are pushing a proposal that will leave almost 30,000 people to die. 

But they don’t care. Rather, they’re worried that seniors, who bear much of the pain from the TrumpCare proposal, might be the wrong people to anger ahead of the 2018 elections.

Under the current plan, premiums would skyrocket for older, poorer Americans — and those people vote.

AARP estimated that a 64-year-old earning $25,000 a year could pay as much as $7,000 more.

“We believe we should have even more assistance,” House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAppeals court rules House chaplain can reject secular prayers FEC filing: No individuals donated to indicted GOP rep this cycle The Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday MORE (R-Wis.) said. “That’s one of the things we’re looking at — for that person in their 50s and 60s because they experience higher healthcare costs.”

If they actually believed that, why didn’t their proposal reflect it?

Well, probably because doing so would wipe away most of the supposed savings in the plan. Let’s do some math: There are currently about 3.4 million enrollees in the exchanges aged 55–64. Multiply that by the $7,000 necessary to close the premium gap, and that totals nearly $24 billion per year. Over 10 years, that’s about $240 billion, easily wiping out most of the projected deficit savings.

And for what? To maliciously take away people’s coverage? Not even Republicans can point to any other positives. Not even the fake news world can create that alternate reality.

So can Republicans truly alienate one of their most reliable voting demographics? We may find out. Trump’s budget would also devastate Meals on Wheels, which delivers food to homebound seniors. 

“We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good,” said Trump’s budget director, saying the community block grants that fund programs like Meals on Wheels are “just not showing any results.” 

In reality, at least six studies have found that programs like these actually “improve the quality of people’s diet, increase their nutrient intake, and reduce their food insecurity and nutritional risk,” as reported by the New York Times’ Upshot. Another study fo und that increasing the number of Meals on Wheels recipients by just 1 percent would lower Medicaid costs by more than $109 million, simply by reducing the need to move these seniors to nursing homes. It’s cheaper to feed them at home.

Republicans need to figure out what’s most important — delivering the pain and death their sick Tea Party base demands, or protecting the interests of their key, aging voting bloc. They can’t do both. 

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.