Health Policy

Careful What You Wish For: How Republican Attorneys General’s Attack on the ACA Could Trigger Medicare for All

By MIKE MAGEE

Cautionary tales are timeless. Take for example Aesop’s Fables, from 620 BC, which included the advisory, “Be careful what you wish for lest it come true.”

Trump and the Republicans who oppose the ACA take heed. You may be inadvertently taking the entire collusive Medical-Industrial Complex down a rabbit hole.

In the opening salvo to the Amy Coney Barrett hearings, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed to be anxious for the fight.  Her view of Trump’s strategy? “The president is rushing to make some kind of a decision because … Nov. 10 is when the arguments begin on the Affordable Care Act…He doesn’t want to crush the virus. He wants to crush the Affordable Care Act.”

With no health plan replacement on the shelf, death star Republicans have been struggling to bury this ever more popular piece of legislation for ten years.

In the process, they’ve alienated not only those who believe health care is a right rather than a privilege, and those who support protections for pre-existing conditions, but also those against deceptive skimpy health insurance, those who believe transgender Americans deserve care guarantees, those who demand access to affordable drugs, those who have their under age 26 adult children covered on their family plan, those opposed to cuts in coverage of contraceptives, and those in favor of federal funding of Planned Parenthood clinics.

As Kaiser Health News Washington correspondent, Julie Rovner, recently wrote, “With the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the ACA’s future is in doubt.” In a case now known as California v. Texas, set for presentation to the Supreme Court in just a few weeks, 21 attorneys general (AGs) led by California are seeking clarity on a challenge by Texas led Republican AGs to declare the ACA unconstitutional based on a weak technicality.

Experts like University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley have sounded the alarm that Barrett’s confirmation could mean the deciding swing vote on the case. He writes, “Among other things, the Affordable Care Act now dangles by a thread.”

But charter members of the Medical-Industrial Complex (MIC) aren’t lining up with Mitch McConnell. America’s Health Insurance Plan (AHIP), the lobbying arm for the big insurance companies, says a Trump win here would cast “a long shadow of uncertainty over ACA-based investments and denies health insurance providers, states, individuals, and other stakeholders of much needed clarity.”

The AARP, with its own proprietary Part D pharmaceutical plan, says a bad decision here “plunges millions of Americans into an abyss of prolonged uncertainty because they do not know if they will lose access to life-sustaining health care coverage and consumer protections.”

The American Hospital Association, the Catholic Health Association of the United States, and the Association of American Medical Colleges issued a joint warning that a Trump/McConnell victory here could  “have serious, perhaps irreparable, consequences for hospitals and the patients they serve.”

Why would charter members of the MIC be spurred to such progressive, public-spirited action against their very own free-market allies, you might ask.

The answer lies in the “What if?” What if Republicans actions in the Supreme Court on November 10th succeed in throwing American health care into full-throttled chaos in the middle of a pandemic now slated to result in 400,000 plus American casualties by February, 2021…and Joe Biden wins control of the executive and legislative branches of government?

Here are two possible scenarios:

1.Biden rolls back the Trump regulatory actions thus far enacted, and the Democratic Congress reinstates the ACA mandate (the technicality that led to the claims of unconstitutionality of the ACA) thus negating the effects of the negative Supreme Court decision. Medicaid extensions in the 12 remaining purple (formerly red) states proceed. At the same time Biden approves extended eligibility to enroll in a voluntary public option.

2. Biden takes a good hard look at the ACA, and at the Republican led legal challenges that will continue unabated with tacit support for the MIC status quo – and says, “Screw it. I’m going Medicare for All.”

Mike Magee MD is a Medical Historian and Journalist at the University of Hartford. He is the author of Code Blue: Inside the Medical Industrial Complex. ((Grove Atlantic/2019)

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