Joe Henderson: Lawmakers may write health care bill, but the people always have final say


If you have many hours to spend on a project where the only sure thing is that you will have a headache at the end, the full text of the U.S. Senate Republican health care proposal is available online.

I tried reading it all.

I really did.

I made it about 20 pages before I realized it was a fool’s errand. Read this one snippet, copied and pasted from the actual draft of the bill, and you will understand why:

2 MARK PLAN.—The applicable median cost
3 benchmark plan with respect to any applicable
4 taxpayer is the qualified health plan offered in
5 the individual market in the rating area in
6 which the taxpayer resides which—
7 ‘‘(i) provides a level of coverage that
8 is designed to provide benefits that are ac-
9 tuarially equivalent to 58 percent of the
10 full actuarial value of the benefits (as de-
11 termined under rules similar to the rules of
12 paragraphs (2) and (3) of section 1302(d)
13 of the Patient Protection and Affordable
14 Care Act) provided under the plan ….


Let’s simplify this, shall we?

When people get sick, particularly those with life-threatening illnesses, they don’t care about the “applicable median cost benchmark plan” or any of the subsections, clauses, median premiums, and other jargon that goes into making a law.

They want to know they can go to a doctor they trust and they want a chance to get well. They want prescriptions to be affordable. They want premiums to be reasonable.

When their child, spouse or elderly parent is seriously ill, people don’t care about free-market solutions or whether Planned Parenthood continues to be funded.

The problem with the current debate in Washington is that for all its blah-blah about providing the best health care for patients, it still looks like Republicans are trying to ram something through that will tell 22 million people the “full actuarial value of the benefits (as determined under rules similar to the rules of 12 paragraphs (2) and (3) of section 1302(d)” don’t apply to them.

It still seems to be about ideology, not people.

When you peel back the layers of the bill — as people with longer attention spans than I have done — you find that at the bottom of it is all is the GOP ideal of tax breaks for the wealthiest folks, many of whom happen to be major donors to Republican political candidates.

We have a pretty good idea how Florida’s U.S. senators will vote. Democrat Bill Nelson will vote no. Republican Marco Rubio is (as usual) trying to have it both ways by saying he hasn’t decided, but he’ll be the good lap dog he always is and fall in line with a yes vote.

Before a final version reaches the Senate floor, you’ll probably see lots of quid-pro-pork change hands — vote yes and suddenly a senator’s home state gets paid off with new bridge projects and the like. Winners will call it a landmark great day. Losers will say it’s the darkest day in U.S. history.

All that will really matter though is whether Republicans remembered the fundamental rule: When people get sick, does this give them access to a doctor they trust and a real chance to get well?

Lawmakers may write the bill, but the people will always have the final say.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


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