The big news this week, in addition to Emmanuel Macron triumphing over far-right Holocaust skeptic Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election, was how Republicans pushed their deeply problematic new health-care bill through the House. Yes, the American Health Care Act—otherwise known as Trumpcare—passed with a narrow vote of 217-213 after the GOP made the bill even more ruthless in order to placate the Freedom Caucus.
So on the latest edition of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver, presumably lacking the requisite time to cook up a last-minute segment on the French election results, focused the first part of his program on the hasty health-care vote. Republicans were still tinkering with the bill last week, so the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office didn’t even have enough time to estimate the cost and impact of the bill. They did, however, assess the prior, more inclusive bill, noting that it would lead to 24 million fewer Americans having health insurance by 2026.
Since the bill was still under construction up until the House vote, as Oliver noted Sunday night, “multiple members of Congress admitted they hadn’t even read the whole thing.”
Those include Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, who said on CNN, “I turned to every page… I attempted to read the entire bill,” along with Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), who confessed to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “I will fully admit, Wolf, that I did not [read it all].”
“You know what? That is actually fair. What really matters is that politicians like Collins fully understand the contents of this bill,” said Oliver. “But when The Buffalo News asked him if he knew that it would cut funding for a program providing insurance to over 600,000 low- and middle-income people in New York State, including 19,000 people in two counties that he represents parts of, he indicated that he didn’t and said, ‘Explain that to me.’”
“OK, I can explain that to you right now: This bill could cause many of your constituents to get thrown into an individual marketplace they cannot afford, and when they realize that, they are going to be furious with you,” he continued. “Essentially: You fucked up.”
Of course, the American Health Care Act had all the callousness of the prior health-care bill with, in the words of Oliver, “a particularly unpleasant addition.”
Yes, the AHCA would roll back Obamacare protections on pre-existing conditions, allowing health insurers to hike premiums on those who have them. Pre-existing conditions—of which there are hundreds—range from asthma, diabetes, and obesity to pregnancy and the aftermath of sexual assault. The bill will attempt to cut about $1 trillion from Obamacare, or the same amount that will be trimmed off the taxes of the top 2 percent of citizens. It is, in the words of financial wizard Warren Buffett, essentially a tax cut for the rich at the expense of the poor and infirm.
“They took a bad thing and managed to make it even worse. It’s like watching Mariah Carey’s Glitter and saying, ‘You know what this needs? Jar Jar Binks,’” cracked Oliver.
“It is dangerous to assume that this bill will die on its own,” he added. “Your senators are incredibly important right now and they’re going to recess soon, so you need to let them know how you feel about this… Call your senators. Call. Your. Senators.”