Help me figure this one out: Senator John Thune says he and his fellow Republican Senators are not hiding their health care plan:
There’s been a lot written about this so-called working group and the small group of people meeting in secret, but those meetings are open to anybody…. Everybody’s clamoring that we’re hiding the ball somewhere. There’s no bill out there yet [Senator John Thune, in Dana Ferguson, “Thune: Health Bill Meetings ‘Open to Anybody’,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.06.15].
That’s funny—does he mean “anybody” like patients groups who might have some useful input about changes in health care law?
This week, a group of more than 15 patients groups — including the American Heart Assn., the March of Dimes, the American Lung Assn. and the American Diabetes Assn. — asked McConnell’s office to meet with them next week, proposing any time between Friday and June 22.
A representative from McConnell’s office told them staff schedules were too busy, according to representatives of several of the organizations [Noam N. Levey and Lisa Mascaro, “Republican Secrecy Faces Mounting Criticism as GOP Senators Work Behind Closed Doors to Replace Obamacare,” Los Angeles Times, 2017.06.16].
Does he mean “anybody” like the Department of Health and Human Services?
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said in a hearing on Thursday that his staff had provided “technical assistance” to senators working on the bill, but that he had not seen any “legislative language” himself [Benjy Sarlin and Leigh Ann Caldwell, “The Senate’s Health Care bill Remains Shrouded in Secrecy,” NBC News, 2017.06.15].
Does he mean “anybody” like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, who feels he has to invite all Senators to an open-door meeting to get any information about what Thune and friends are formualting behind their closed doors?
Does he mean “anybody” like fellow Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who doesn’t know if Thune and friends are building a health care bill from scratch or just tinkering with the bad House bill?
But again, I don’t know that. Because none of us have actually seen language.
Is it the framework of the House-passed bill and then we’re filling in our own details? I don’t know. We just don’t know.
My constituents expect me to know, and if we had utilized the process that goes through a committee, I would be able to answer not only your questions but my constituents’ questions [Senator Lisa Murkowski, in Dylan Scott, “Lisa Murkowski, a Crucial Senate Swing Vote, Is Very Frustrated with AHCA,” Vox, 2017.06.15].
Forgive me, Senator Thune, but I’m having trouble finding anyone who corroborates your story of openness on how you plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Even the paper to which you make your claim of openness thinks the process is too secretive. You’re acting more like you’re planning a surprise party, not legislation that affects an industry that makes up over a sixth of our economy.
Related Clicking: The Kaiser Family Foundation maps the impact of repealing the Affordable Care Act in each state. In South Dakota, Kaiser figures the ACA has insured 7,000 more people, provided $11 million a year in premium tax credits, and protected the insurability of 126,000 non-elderly people with declinable pre-existing conditions. I’d try to explain how your plan will affect those numbers, but as you said, there is no bill yet, and as you refuse to admit, you won’t let anyone else in to see what you’re thinking of putting in the bill.