Throughout the month of March, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) toured Capitol Hill with his staff, ideas for an innovative healthcare reform, and a copy machine. Why the copy machine? The leaders of the GOP were hard at work crafting the healthcare proposal they would try to use for their repeal and replace of Obamacare (“The Affordable Care Act,” or ‘ACA’). It was a mass Twitter campaign. He visited the congressional statue hall, the crypt, the old Supreme Court and Senate chambers, yet he could not find this healthcare bill. Taped to the copier? A sign that read “Show me the bill!!!”
Meanwhile, in a Press briefing hosted by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), a PowerPoint was used to sell the healthcare proposal to the people. Paul Ryan rolled up his sleeves, said ‘Here it is!’’ and proceeded to give the equivalent of a science fair presentation on the future of the American healthcare system. Following both events, the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (or the ‘AHCA’), and President Trump applauded the congressional leadership on getting the “repeal and replace” process underway in the House.
Now a similar process is taking place in the Senate, and the media cannot get enough of it. The Democrats have begun objecting to every unanimous consent request made in the chamber and holding a de facto filibuster of Senate business until the bill is made public. Special interest groups are pleading with citizens to call their Senators and demand to see the bill. Reports are circling about a ‘secret’ healthcare proposal- being drafted without female input- that will be rushed through the Senate with no CBO report, debate, or consensus. If you listen to most media coverage of the process you would be lead to believe we have entered a state of complete chaos.
The fact of the matter is most of these breaking reports have twisted the truth to sell papers. There is no denying that the healthcare proposal is not currently public, however it would be hard to be hiding a complete bill if that bill simply isn’t finished. Members of the Budget and HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) committees have been hard at work crafting a new healthcare proposal- one they could not write until the bill was sent to the Senate for approval. This is not a secret gang of eight or thirteen Senators conspiring to steal healthcare from American people as some would lead you to believe – rather, all 52 GOP senators, both male and female, are working together to arrive at a consensus as to what type of bill they would like to present to the public and to Senate democrats for debate. amidst the anticipation, Senators have already moved to have, at the very least, a completed draft published to the public by Thursday morning. So, while a sensitive issue and one close to the hearts of Americans, sometimes patience is necessary to arrive at a polished product.
Arriving at this conclusion, however, does not let Senate Republicans off the hook. In fact, Senate Republicans have a mandate to hold honest, open discussion on the healthcare proposal they intend to pass. Should they attempt to pass the proposal in July, before the looming recess that’s on so many Senators minds, they should make sure it has been presented to the public, scored by the CBO, and put to extensive debate. If there is any issue that could dramatically alter Republicans chances to win seats back in the 2018 midterm election, their response to the healthcare crisis would be that singular issue.
Do both sides mean well? Yes. Republicans, as demonized as they have become, predict districts they represent going without healthcare providers by 2018, such as the case in Knoxville, Tennessee. Counties across rural America, neglected once again by Democratic leadership, are entering 2018 with virtually no choice in health-care provider. As much as the Democrats tout the need for universal access to healthcare, they neglect the problems that exist in counties where, under the Affordable Care Act, access to healthcare would become obsolete by the end of the decade.
While well-intentioned, the idea that Democrats could create a perfect healthcare system in the United States was utopian in nature. We are a far larger and more complex nation than most other systems that have tried to adopt universal healthcare. While it makes sense that the Dem’s want to hold on to the ACA so badly (it is one of Obama’s only concrete legacies), they need to put politics aside and recognize that the plan has failed. So, let’s all take a deep breath. Democrats and the American public should wait what will most likely be less than a week for the Senate GOP to release the healthcare proposal. Then, the Senate GOP needs to get the bill scored by the CBO, open it to debate, and begin to truly fix the problems left in the wake of the Affordable Care Act’s failed system.
William "Alex" Schramkowski is a second year student at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. He is currently working for Senator Lamar Alexander in Alexander's Memphis office.