A Congressman Accidentally Speaks The Truth About The GOP Health Plan

Sick people aren’t going to pay higher premiums, they'll just have the privilege of "contributing" more to the insurance pool.
05/02/2017 09:06 am ET Updated May 02, 2017
Tom Williams via Getty Images

A Republican congressman has finally spoken the truth about the thinking behind the GOP’s latest health care plan.

Representative Mo Brooks of the 5th District of Alabama revealed on Monday that he had moved from no to yes on the proposed Republican health care plan. Brooks, who is taken seriously by some Republicans, explained his health care stance in a CNN interview with Jake Tapper.

Brooks declared, with a straight face, that he hopes that his more moderate Republican colleagues will start focusing “not just on the public policy aspects of this,” but also on “pure politics and electability.” There are “far more people,” Brooks noted, who are struggling because of the increased costs of health care than there are people who “previously had no health care at all.”

Apparently unable to mutter the words “higher premiums for sick people,” Brooks noted approvingly that the bill he supports “would allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool.”

Nicely put. Sick people aren’t sick, they simply happen to have higher health costs. And they aren’t going to pay higher premiums, they are going to have the privilege of “contributing” to the insurance pool.

And what truly distinguishes the sick and the poor from everybody else is not just that they are outnumbered.

They are also less deserving.

The genius of the newly amended Republican plan, according to Brooks, is that it would reduce costs “to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy, and right now those are the people who’ve done things the right way.”

Sure, Brooks concedes, “in fairness,” some people have pre-existing conditions “through no fault of their own.”

Kind of like Trump conceded that “some [Mexican immigrants], I assume, are good people.”

Brooks is thus to be applauded not only for his willingness to say what his Republican colleagues think but won’t say, but also for his high-mindedness. Sick people everywhere are doubtless ecstatic that Mo Brooks has conceded that at least some of them didn’t bring their illnesses upon themselves.

And that’s not his only concession. Brooks also conceded that people in those circumstances ― apparently referring to those whose illnesses were not self-inflicted by lack of virtue ― are people that our society “needs to help.”

Exactly how society should help these people was not one of his talking points.

The Republican plan is to “help” sick people by allowing insurance companies to raise premiums on them as much as they want, and then hope that state administered “high risk pools” will cover the difference. Even though the history of such pools shows that they won’t even come close to covering the difference.

Since we haven’t yet seen the GOP bill, we know only its outline, not its details. One “detail” that we don’t yet know, for instance, is whether those state-administered high-risk pools will have to meet meaningful minimum standards, or whether they will simply have to convince Tom Price that their high-risk pool is “good enough” to permit insurance companies to raise premiums on sick people.

Given the Republican antipathy toward mandates and standards, most likely the latter. After all, one of the features of the amended bill that won the support of Brooks and the Freedom Caucus was that it allowed the states to waive out of the minimum health benefits that were made the standard under Obamacare.

If the policies sold by insurers don’t have to include any standard coverage, why should a high-risk pool established by the states? And if by chance the GOP plan happens to include minimum standards for high-risk pools, you can be sure that the key word here will be “minimum.”

Brooks could not have better articulated the stunted value systems of Donald Trump and the Republican Freedom Caucus, insofar as they can be equated. The difference, of course, is that the Freedom Caucus view is based on a rigidly conservative ideological underpinning, whereas Trump’s view is based on a more emotional, ad-hoc majoritarian instinct. But both demonstrate an indifference, if not a downright antipathy, to those outside of their core electoral constituents.

Don’t worry about sick people, old people or poor people. Throw them some scraps, but save the feast for the more fortunate. They are, after all, not only more fortunate, but also more numerous, more deserving, and more likely to vote Republican.

Brooks may try to clean up his miserable performance in the CNN interview. But he shouldn’t.

He spoke for his party and his president.

Philip Rotner is an attorney and an engaged citizen who has spent over 40 years practicing law. His views are his own and do not reflect the views of any organization with which he has been associated. Follow him on Twitter at @PhilipRotner.

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