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John McCain and the Partisan Farce on “Healthcare Reform”

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Posted: August 12, 2017 at 7:00 am   /   by

Senator John McCain of Arizona sequentially played the role of superhero, villainous traitor (to Republicans), and savior (to ObamaCare) as the McConnell “skinny repeal” lost by one vote—his.

First, he dropped in for the crucial vote on bringing the issue to the Senate floor, to a thunderous standing ovation, days after brain surgery (not “eye surgery,” as it was repeatedly billed by the press that covers “healthcare” matters). This is not his first such performance—he interrupted his 2008 presidential campaign to vote for TARP, the financial system bailout.

Once repeal itself was up for a vote, McCain ostentatiously cast the decisive “nay,” in a stunning violation of the vehement promises made during his Senatorial campaign. Somebody had to do it, since a lot of the Republicans really didn’t want to kill a cash cow for their state or donors. McCain is at the start of his term and has less to lose.

Then he made a speech that former senator Joe Lieberman said was “one of his finest hours.” McCain called for a “return to the bipartisan cooperation that can lead to real legislative accomplishments.”

“Bipartisan” is not the same thing as wise or good, and bipartisan mistakes are even harder to get rid of. But why the stark party-line divide here? Why did no Democrats offer any suggestions? Are they interested in helping their constituents, or just in obstructing Republicans? Do they believe the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s precious legacy, is functioning perfectly?

Hardly. Everybody seems to agree that the insurance “market” needs “stabilizing.” That means it needs more taxpayer dollars to bail it out. And if there aren’t enough votes to appropriate the money for cost-sharing subsidies properly, ACA partisans want the illegal funding begun by Obama and being paid month-to-month by Trump to continue.

The lawsuit against this brought by the House of Representatives is sitting in the D.C. Court of Appeals, which just agreed to allow 18 attorneys general (17 states plus D.C.) to intervene on the side of lawlessness.

And why do insurers need the money? It’s because ACA allows them to offer only unaffordable, money-losing products. Premiums must escalate to the point that nobody can pay them without huge taxpayer subsidies. So why no bipartisan amendments to ACA’s price controls and larded-up “essential” benefits? Why not an amendment to legalize a genuine market for real insurance? The Democrats ought to have to explain why they object to actuarially fair premiums for low-risk persons, or why they insist on adding third-party overhead to routine costs that should be paid out of pocket. If the object is to help a few people with known high costs (“pre-existings”), why do they have to wreck the insurance market for the 95% who could get a policy they liked?

Why don’t any Democrats speak up for repealing mandates? Why do they insist on punishing people for not buying an overpriced product they don’t want? Do politicians really believe that coverage is the same as care? And do they swallow the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) fictions: (1) that the individual mandate has worked and (2) that choosing not to buy something is the same as “losing” it? Are they all that lacking in understanding and judgment, or is it all partisan politics?

Or do they understand perfectly well that ACA is a wealth transfer mechanism from those who receive or provide brain surgery or other actual care to Congress’s real constituents, the money-changers? Consider, for example, the really big cash sinkhole: Medicaid. A lot of people wouldn’t bother to enroll in Medicaid, even though it is free, if they didn’t have to pay to avoid it (the individual mandate). Then the states and managed-care contractors would lose the constant flow of federal dollars for patients who are not getting care.

And what about the neediest patients, say an American Charlie Gard? Medicaid doesn’t cover experimental treatments. Would Charlie’s parents be allowed to raise money and pay privately?

The question of whether Medicaid recipients are restricted to care available within the system comes up frequently. In Sen. McCain’s home state of Arizona, we are trying to get a clear answer.


Jane Orient

Jane M. Orient, M.D., Executive Director of Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, has been in solo practice of general internal medicine since 1981 and is a clinical lecturer in medicine at the University Of Arizona College Of Medicine. She received her undergraduate degrees in chemistry and mathematics from the University of Arizona, and her M.D. from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She is the author of Sapira’s Art and Science of Bedside Diagnosis; the fourth edition has just been published by Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. She also authored YOUR Doctor Is Not In: Healthy Skepticism about National Health Care, published by Crown. She is the executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a voice for patients’ and physicians’ independence since 1943. Additional information on health-related issues: and

Dr. Orient’s position on Obama’s healthcare reform: “The Obama plan will increase individual health insurance costs, and if the federal government puts price controls on the premiums, the companies will simply have to go out of business. The plan will deliver higher costs, more hassles, fewer choices, less innovation, and less patient care.”

Doctor Orient can be contacted for interviews and further information at: (520) 323-3110 or [email protected].

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John McCain and the Partisan Farce on “Healthcare Reform”