EDITORIAL: Keep talking about health care
Sen. Pat Toomey is fond of calling the Senate health care bill he helped write "Better Care."
The Pennsylvania Republican was part of the committee that wrote the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), which would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and replace it with a new concoction of tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and changes that would make health insurance more costly for everyone else.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the bill would cause 22 million Americans to lose health coverage by 2026. It would push more of the costs of Medicaid coverage onto states. It would allow states to impose lifetime limits on coverage, cut subsidies for people with incomes of more than 350 percent of the federal poverty line and eliminate the essential benefits that must be covered by all insurance.
This isn't Better Care for most Americans. This is Better Care for those who look at money and human lives on a scale, balancing costs against the suffering of those who will be priced out of health care.
So we're very happy that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky couldn't round up enough guaranteed yes votes to bring the BCRA to a vote before the weeklong Fourth of July recess.
McConnell was trying to get the bill passed before senators went home for the break; he even wanted to get it passed before the CBO report came out last week.
But with the halls of the Capitol deserted for the week, constituents have a chance to make their voices heard.
In York, the York Regional Opiate Collaborative has spoken against the bill, saying it will make it more difficult for people with drug addictions to receive treatment.
Dr. Matthew Howie, executive director of the group, says Medicaid pays for half of all substance-abuse treatments in York County. As the county and the country deal with this devastating epidemic, policies need to make it easier for those affected to receive treatment, not more difficult.
The members of activist group Indivisible York have been against the repeal of "Obamacare" from the beginning, staging demonstrations and die-ins at Rep. Scott Perry's office before the Dillsburg Republican voted for the House version of a new health care bill.
Toomey is planning a form of a Facebook town hall meeting Wednesday at the WHTM studios in Harrisburg. Moderators will take questions from social media, and audiences (invitation only) will also ask questions. The meeting will air live 7-8 p.m.
Indivisible York is planning a demonstration outside the studio to let Toomey know its members' thoughts on the Republican bill.
They have the right idea. Constituents need to use this break to make sure their senators know what they think about this deal.
McConnell needs to get 50 votes out of his 52 Republicans to pass this bill along. Right now, he's getting pushed on one side by moderates who don't want to see the draconian cuts to Medicaid and other programs. From the other side, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is leading a group of conservatives pushing for even more cuts.
He's also getting pressure from the White House, with President Donald Trump calling for a bill to repeal the ACA now and replace it later, sometime, maybe, with about as much thought put into the call as we've come to expect from this administration.
Voters need to use the break to remind senators who they're actually working for and representing. It's not the 1 percent who will receive tax cuts from this bill, and it's not the insurance companies that will be able to charge more for older people and those with pre-existing conditions.
Senators are supposed to represent the people in their states. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., is doing that well by speaking out against this bill and the horrors it could bring for many people in Pennsylvania.
The people of this state need use this break to remind Toomey that their lives should matter more to him than the opinions of a select group of Republicans.