In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash over the weekend, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price complained that the current health-insurance system has to be changed because “we’ve got deductibles that are skyrocketing. You have got folks with a health coverage card, but no care because they can’t afford the deductible.”
So …. got that? High deductibles are bad, because as Price points out, they discourage people from using the system and getting treatment. If you believe Price, that’s a problem that Republicans intend to fix.
Yet it’s a lie. Under the Senate bill being pushed by Price and other Republicans, deductibles would soar even higher. They would soar not by accident, but as a result of conscious, deliberate policy decisions written into the bill that are designed to drive those deductibles higher.¹ The intent is to make people pay more out of their own pockets for health care, through higher deductibles and co-pays, so that they will be less likely to get treatment.
Price absolutely knows that. Price embraces that theory. So when he complains about high deductibles in the current system, implying that the Republican version is going to make it better, he is engaging in all-out, conscious, cynical deception on a scale that is shocking even in the political world. And that’s only the beginning.
In that same interview, Price made the following statement:
“We would not have individuals lose coverage that they want for themselves and for their family. We want to make certain that health care is available to all Americans. Right now, we have got 28 million Americans who are uninsured, who don’t have insurance right now in the current plan. Is that a plan that works for patients? Absolutely not. That’s the kind of thing we’re trying to fix.”
The current system leaves 28 million Americans without insurance, and Price considers that unacceptable. If you believe what he’s saying, “that’s the kind of thing we’re trying to fix,” both with the House Republican plan passed last spring and with the Senate Republican plan up for a vote this week.
However, instead of reducing the number of uninsured, the House Republican health-care reform plan will push an additional 23 million off the health insurance that they now enjoy. If 28 million uninsured is a sign that the current system is a failure, what would you call a system that raises the number of uninsured to 51 million? Price and his buddies would call it a huge success.
Price also claimed the following:
“It’s important the people appreciate that what our goal is, is to make it so folks on Medicaid, the most vulnerable in our society, those moms and kids and the seniors and the disabled, that program works for them in a way that allows them to get the kind of care and the coverage that they need, in addition to those who are also in the low — in the vulnerable category, that they’re able to get the kind of coverage that they want and need for their families.”
The Republican goal is to make sure that the most vulnerable in our society get the care they want and need. Those “most vulnerable” include the two-thirds of senior citizens in nursing homes who rely upon Medicaid to pay their bills. In fact, 42 percent of the Medicaid budget goes to long-term care for those older Americans. And Senate Republicans propose to protect them by cutting $880 billion out of Medicaid so that wealthy Americans can enjoy a huge tax cut.
That’s not just a rollback of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion; congressional Republicans are using the anti-Obamacare frenzy as cover to undercut traditional Medicaid as well. And it is mathematically impossible to cut almost a trillion dollars out of the system and claim that as a result, more people are going to get even better care.
Price and his colleagues are telling the American people that up is down, that black is white, that wrong is right. They cannot defend what they are trying to do because it is frankly indefensible, so their strategy is to claim to be doing one thing while in reality they attempt the exact opposite. It really is one of the damnedest things I’ve ever witnessed.
¹ Here’s one way they would drive deductibles higher. Under current law, the typical “benchmark” health insurance plan is designed to cover 70 percent of the beneficiary’s normal health-care costs, absent a major illness or accident, leaving 30 percent to be covered out of pocket. Under the Senate version, the benchmark plan is required to cover just 58 percent of normal health-care costs, meaning 42 percent will have to be made up out of the patient’s pocket.