May was not proclaimed by President Trump as “National Health Care Denial Month." Nonetheless, the White House and the Republican Party did everything possible last month to push that agenda.
On the very first day of May, Trump’s attorney general and loyal servant William Barr asked a federal appeals court to throw out the entire Affordable Care Act of 2010. If the courts yield, the following health insurance protections utilized by Americans the last nine years will all be eliminated:
- guaranteed coverage for preexisting conditions
- Medicaid coverage for those just above poverty
- health insurance premium subsidies for those with limited income
- parental insurance coverage protected through age 26
- guaranteed medication and preventive care benefits
“Repeal everything possible” remains the GOP health care mantra. Here in Wisconsin, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau have wired in government participation in the heartless and vicious Republican attack on our healthcare. And on May 9, the Republicans on Wisconsin’s legislative finance committee voted to block Medicaid coverage for more than 80,000 Wisconsinites living just above the poverty line.
The GOP’s health care denial agenda is succeeding. In 2018, the number of uninsured Americans jumped from 29 million to 30 million. We’ve known for decades that black Americans and Hispanic Americans are at increased likelihood of lack of access to vital health care. Being uninsured is an established risk factor for early death.
Why is the Republican Party working fanatically to deny health care access to tens of millions of Americans?
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, a physician by background, explained it in a 2011 Senate speech. He angrily rejected the call for a right to health care, fuming: “I’m a physician. That [would mean] you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery.”
Why would a Republican senator and physician say something so egregious? Paul endorses “absolutely everything has a price” economic theorizing. It’s extreme fanaticism, and it serves to lock in privilege.
Who holds positions of power in America today? Take a look at the executive branch of government, including the cabinet. Check out the Republican members of Congress and the Republicans in our state legislature. White males, with a few exceptions, hold the reins of power, and refuse to let go.
Making America great again, for the Republican Party, is about returning America to the “Father Knows Best” 1950s, when men held almost all the powerful jobs, most women were relegated to the home, and black people and minorities were told to “know your place.” Racism and sexism run deep; for much of American history, holding office was limited by law to white male property-holders.
Sen. Ron Johnson has been a leading promoter of privilege. He told a high school student point-blank that we should view healthcare access as a privilege, referring approvingly to Sen. Paul’s outrageous statement about universal healthcare being a tool to turn doctors into slaves. He voted to repeal Obamacare.
On May 18 at the Republican Party of Wisconsin's state convention, he called for federal legislation criminalizing almost all post-20-week abortions. Johnson, who offers himself as an advocate for small government, wants the complex moral issues surrounding abortion to be decided by the white men who control many legislatures and the presidency. He supports criminal penalties for Americans pursuing their individual health care liberty.
“Health care for all” is the Democratic position. In the Senate, Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, proposed getting there in one big step with his “Medicare for All” bill. In the House, Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois and Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, re-introduced “Medicare for America," a step-by-step approach.
The political reality was stated boastfully by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: he and his bloc of 53 Republican senators have the power to “graveyard” any legislation they wish. Fair-minded people need to fight back.
Our Constitution, in its preamble, calls for advancement of the common welfare, and individual liberty. Today and throughout most of America’s history, we’ve failed to honor those ideals. We imposed slavery and second-class citizenship on African Americans, Native Americans, and other minorities. We completely shut women out of power for most of our history. And today, the very same groups of people are having access to health care blocked by the GOP.
Health care coverage for everyone is a moral requirement for a decent society. Privileged and entrenched officeholders who stand in the way need to be voted out.
Ron Malzer of La Crosse is a retired psychologist.
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