Last Friday the GOP leadership in the House did the unthinkable. They pulled their health care reform bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), just before it went up for a vote.
As a patient advocate, I had naively believed I could track the health care reform efforts in Washington, contact my legislators to urge them to vote to preserve health care coverage, and write blog posts about it along the way. I was wrong.
Political intrigue and maneuvering
It’s been a whirlwind couple of months filled with political intrigue and maneuvering leading up to the introduction of the AHCA. It started with Trump’s inauguration day signing of an executive order calling for Obamacare to be dismantled by the federal government. This was followed by a lot of speculation about which plan the Republicans would propose to replace Obamacare. Once the bill was ready the draft was locked-down in a meeting room and made available to select Republican House members. Then the bill was rushed through two committee hearings before the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) could issue it report on its impact. Once the bill was leaked to the press, the mad scramble to read and analyze the bill began.
Nothing good to say
No one had anything good to say about the bill. Not the American Medical Association. Not health insurers. Not even the White House’s own analysis, which said the results would be even more devastating than what the nonpartisan CBO reported.
The contents were disastrous for anyone who needed health care and didn’t have deep pockets to pay for it. The CBO reported that 24 million people would lose health insurance. So much for the promise to keep everyone covered.
A call to action
Then something very amazing happened.
People took action.
Constituents showed up at town hall meetings and district offices. And they were vocal. A video of Representative Chaffetz (R-Utah) being shouted down with chants of “do your job!” went viral. So many vocal constituents showed up that it was reported that some legislators feared for their safety. It was Tea Party tactics, only this time people who wanted governmental protections were using them.
Constituents called their legislators’ offices in DC and in their district. And, again, they were vocal. So many calls were placed that the Capital switchboard busied-out. So many calls were placed that every staffer ended up on phone duty. Various legislators said that the calls tallied were by-and-large against AHCA. Rep. Daniel Donovan (R-N.Y.) was quoted as saying the calls to his office were 1000-to-1 against.
Last Friday, when it became clear that they didn’t have the votes to pass even after Trump issued an ultimatum to House Republicans, the Republicans bill was pulled before the vote. Speaker Paul Ryan appeared before the press and said that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare, remains “the law of the land” for the foreseeable future. There were reports that Trump was ready to move on from health care reform.
Patient and health care advocates breathed a collective sigh of relief. A bill that would be disastrous for millions of Americans went down to defeat.
But here we are four days later and Speaker Ryan is quoted as saying, “We are going to keep getting at this thing.” This “thing” being overhauling health care.
The battle might have been won, but the fight is not over.