As promised, on Thursday the Senator from Coal and Tobacco released his chamber’s close-to-the-vest health care bill, and you know what? It isn’t actually a health care bill. It’s a government spending and taxation bill that incidentally screws up access to health care. Differing from the House’s American Health Care Act bill only in detail, it so severely limits Medicare spending as to totally undo almost all of the limited good that Obamacare instigated. Even the establishment-happy Senator McCaskill was moved to observe that it would remove life support from elderly and disabled Missourians and force the sick into emergency rooms in a state already losing rural hospitals. To her credit, she told off Chairman Orrin Hatch from her perch on the Finance Committee the other day, but of course nobody who matters cared.
After reading a summary of McConnell’s bill, Massachusetts’s Elizabeth Warren excoriated Republicans for “kicking dirt in the face of American people and taking away their health insurance.” Calling the tax cuts the bill promises for the wealthy and largess for insurers “blood money.” The cuts to Medicaid it proposes will force states to pit care for disabled kids with breathing tubes against bedridden seniors needing dialysis. Even I, who has managed to keep a wary distance from the medical-industrial complex, nearly wept at the heartlessness of the GOP proposal, so carefully crafted to compound misery.
In a speech the week before, using many grim anecdotes, freshman CA Senator Kamala Harris told her august peers what kind of health care coverage people want and need. Her performance wasn’t as full-bore as Warren’s (Liz is hard to match), but it may have touched some Republican hearts (oxymoron alert). But what is it about male Senators that keeps them from conveying the agony and urgency when speaking to the issue? (Bernie continues to be the best of the lot.) Ex-comedian Al Franken’s 15-minute oration was a snooze, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s “wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing” characterization of the ACHA couldn’t touch the women’s level of passion. It’s emblematic of the measured, timid, and tepid responses Democratic leaders bring to issues the public feels passionate about. Don’t they realize how their gross dereliction of defiance allowed the GOP to own government and brew up the current mishegas?
Bernie and Liz had a half-hour tête à tête about the GOP bill in a public forum on June 19th. Bernie did a bit of mansplaining, but they were on the same page as they responded to questions from the audience. It would have been nice if they had broached what makes health care and health insurance so freaking expensive that most people can’t have any without subsidies or can’t afford policies that would cover all the pricey treatments they might need—a subject still not fit for polite conversation.
Most of the Dems’ furor is self-pity at being frozen out, but know who’s really pissed? The nursing home workers who will be laid off; the addict’s family members who worry for their son or daughter; the hospital nurses who will face staggering workloads under McConnellCare; you, when an errant driver maims you so severely that it will take 23 surgeries for you to recover. But of course, none of the above (with the possible exception of the driver who slams you) are major GOP donors, so why should the party leaders give a rat’s ass about their concerns?
You can be sure that Trump will sign any health care legislation that comes his way. You can also be sure of that more people will then start dying. Speaking of dying and of women stepping up, a college student named Zoey Jordan Salsbury has come up with a nifty idea, which she explains below. She’s set up a website called Mail Me to the GOP where folks on their last legs can sign up to have their cremains mailed to one or more members of Congress. The predeceased person (or a survivor) gets to name the giftee(s), who along with the ashes will receive a heartfelt personal greeting.
There’s little hope that TrumpCare can be stopped in its tracks—unless massive numbers of its predictable prey start acting up in solidarity. So, suppose we stage yet another major demo in DC and in places around the country, but this time not just the usual anti-Trump coalition. This event would focus a spotlight on the once and future victims of the health care regime, pissing, moaning, vomiting and carrying on. People whose only medical specialist for miles has a ten-month waiting list. People who will get kicked out of nursing homes when Medicaid funding dries up. People who will be denied rehab services. Caregivers who will stop being paid. Cancer victims whose only chemo is illicit opioids. Carrying signs such as The doctor won’t see me now, or I went to the ER with asthma and all I got was this lousy bill, or Congress has a healthcare exchange—why can’t I? or My son the Doctor says he’s going to quit.
Perhaps brand it the “Zombies Demand Healthcare” movement and tweet it as #TrumpCareZombies. Wouldn’t it be astonishing to pave Pennsylvania Avenue with the ailing bodies of the sick and disabled? Wouldn’t that do a lot to introduce the novel concept of shame to our so-called political leaders? Zombie costumes would be acceptable as long as their wearers struggle out from body bags or shrouds, or self-identify as insurance executives.
You might think that putting together a bunch of sick people’s marches would be hard. No doubt, but it would be much less of a struggle than what innocent Americans will experience if we don’t try. For starters, given all the preexisting outrage out there, being about to have one’s lifeline cut should be ample incentive to hobble on down to Washington or the state capital. Let’s start organizing to get out the word, get physicians and nurses involved, get the walking wounded to show up, and get those gurneys moving down Pennsylvania Avenue.