When the House passed its bill to repeal Obamacare last week, photos of President Trump celebrating his victory in the Rose Garden were unsettling. There was the jubilant leader of the free world surrounded by a gaggle of middle-aged white men in white shirts and conservative ties glorifying a vote that could strip 24 million Americans of their health insurance.
Where were the House members who represent American women, many of whom obtained insurance coverage for the first time under the Affordable Care Act, and their children who could lose their access to doctors?
The vote on the hastily prepared bill to revamp the nation’s health care system passed by a slim 217-213 margin. No Democrat voted yes.
Appearances can be deceiving, but no one in the photographs looked like an advocate for Americans on Medicaid — the nation’s poorest and oldest citizens — who face greatly reduced benefits, or none at all. There were no minorities pictured, even though nearly 40 percent of the American public is made up of non-whites. And forget the immigrants, who constitute nearly half of Queens’ population.
Which representatives abandoned the 4 million beleaguered small business owners who signed onto Obamacare to give their employees coverage for the first time? These entrepreneurs drive the economic engine for Queens.
The U.S. Senate is expected to write its own version of the bill, which could blunt many of the cuts and save the provision to cover pre-existing conditions without bankrupting patients.
Obamacare, however flawed and in need of an overhaul, was tossed out in a burst of partisanship with little consideration given to the consequences. The money saved by slashing health-care coverage would deliver Trump’s promised income tax cuts, which heavily favor the richest Americans.
In the process, however, the economy could suffer, since one of out every nine U.S. workers is employed in the health-care field. The industry expanded rapidly as federal funding grew under Obamacare. Not surprisingly, many doctors, hospitals and insurers are opposed to the GOP bill.
In New York state, 2.7 million residents would lose coverage under the bill, and the state would be out $7 billion in federal funds, which could force some hospitals to close their doors. The head of the giant Northwell/LIJ health system on the Queens border called the American Health Care Act “a debacle.”
Even more disturbing was the House Republicans’ apparent lack of compassion for the sick, the elderly and the poor as they gloated over a four-vote margin on a bill that is far from becoming law.
Have we lost our sense of decency as a country?