Earlier this month, Sen. Susan Collins signed onto the Senate GOP tax bill, which would eliminate Obamacare’s individual mandate and drive 13 million Americans off their health insurance over the next decade.
This bill was already one of the worst pieces of legislation ever considered by the Senate, having been called “a disaster,” “terrible” and even “evil.” But with the elimination of the individual mandate we can call it something else — deadly.
We often think of health care abstractly when looking at policy, but it’s important to realize the implications for the 13 million Americans, nearly 10 times the total population of Maine, who are projected to lose their health insurance. Living without insurance means living in fear of an injury or sickness that will cause financial devastation, or worse. Without the ability to pay, conditions often go untreated, getting worse and worse.
Life without insurance often means a much more unpleasant life, but it can also mean a shorter one. People die without health care, and this bill takes health care away from millions. To grasp the impact, do the math.
Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers actually did the math, and it’s appalling. Drawing on data from peer-reviewed, nonpolitical sources, he determined that based on the most conservative estimates, this bill will result in at least 10,000 extra dead Americans every single year. And that’s the low number.
And it is undisputed that health care premiums for the average family of four in Maine will increase by about $2,500.
Like the seasoned politician she is, Collins has said all the right things. She has criticized the bill’s repeal of the individual mandate and has demanded that sick Americans be protected. In fact, her vote only came in exchange for an agreement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, that two supplementary health care bills would be passed to stabilize health care markets. Our senators don’t work for McConnell. And they don’t work for their donors. They work for their constituents.
The problem is, those promises from the Senate majority leader are just that, promises and nothing more.
The Senate majority leader is completely and utterly unable to guarantee that any bill will become law. Every bill needs to pass the House as well as the Senate, and as we have already seen, getting those bills through the House is going to be near impossible. Collins is a seasoned senator and ought to know these bills won’t pass.
House conservatives have been opposed to Obamacare stabilization measures from day one, and nothing McConnell says is going to change that. In one of the least shocking turn of events in American political history, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said earlier this month that he was not involved in the deal Collins accepted, and that he has given no commitment to pass those two health care bills.
We’ve also heard conservative House members speak out against the agreement, like Rep. Mark Walker, R-North Carolina, who said, “We still have the same issues. Nothing has changed in the last two months just because we’re fulfilling our promise on delivering on tax reform. I find it problematic to be promising something that the House has shunned from very early on.”
Their responses to this guarantee aren’t a surprise. Any promise should be looked at with skepticism, but to blindly believe that these bills would pass through the House is frankly absurd. Anyone who has even the shallowest familiarity with Congress knew from the second they were announced that McConnell’s guarantee meant nothing.
Collins claims to be an advocate for sick Americans while casting a vote that will doom them to poverty, disease and death. It’s hypocritical, it’s shameless, and it’s inexcusable. But it’s not too late to change.
If Collins wants to ensure American families have access to health care, she can’t just hold onto empty promises. She must vote “No” on the GOP tax bill, or their blood will be on her hands.
Anne Haskell formerly served in the Maine Senate. She lives in Portland.
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