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Trumpcare: An Awful Deal for Chicagoland, America, and You

March 22, 2017

Insight from Tom Nash (His views do not necessarily represent those of others at the firm.)

Some words about the health care issue in America. A great American patriot said our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Any marketing expert would tell me that with a business with clients throughout the greater Chicago metro area, whether certain things “matter” or not, it is foolish to get in the middle of the fierce political state in today’s America. So, of course, here I go.

This morning I stumbled into a reference from the Fox News reporter Britt Hume berating the dreaded liberal media for their ridicule of the notion Donald Trump likes his steak cooked well-done and uses Ketchup versus a fancier condiment. And the suggestion is people have to give the elected president a chance versus seizing upon every snobby, condescending angle to attack him or the GOP. Why do certain portions of the media focus on the trivial, the argument goes, versus alleged progress of President Trump and the GOP on issues of “health care, trade and tax policy, missile threats, the men and women dropping dead from heroin? “ So, I will avoid as much as humanly possible any focus on “Trump the Man Himself” and the national discussion about how much he lies, whose news is fake news, and the effect of all that on the country.

But we have our own focus at Nash Disability Law on what the president calls the “forgotten men and women“ who Trump insists will be forgotten no longer with his leadership. After representing working people for fully 40 years–thousands of you–relative to issues of disability claims, notions of health care and access to it have been at the heart of our profession. We’re bummed if our clients do not vote and think it’s a big mistake, but love all our clients regardless of who they voted for. Democracy is a very good thing! Reasonable people can disagree and I respect your view, but want to share mine.

President Trump shouted loud and clear, early and often: “I was the first and only GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.” He was and is now lying about this and his health insurance plan(s)–B-I-G-L-Y. And it will hurt you.

The GOP touts a pitch that abolishing versus improving the ACA is an “act of mercy.” The Democrats talk in turn about what “mercy” means and everyone gets their underwear in a bunch about notions of mercy versus giving away other people’s money. In the end, if you get a headache trying to sort out what Trump and the GOP are doing relative to Trumpcare and you, the video below of what Trump’s own spokesperson, his budget director, said on TV on Sunday March 19 should help.

President Trump insists he will be saving money with his Trumpcare, but by doing what? How did he say that Trump and the GOP are going to save money and pay for those Trumpcare tax savings for the rich? The answer is going after those receiving Social Security disability and claimants just like you. Calling Social Security Disability “wasteful,” the budget director asked, “Let me ask you a question, do you really think that Social Security Disability Insurance is part of what people think of when they think of Social Security? I don’t think so.” He may not think so, but our clients, those close to them, and those who treat them may disagree. Rather than “wasteful,” you see Social Security Disability as the lifeline that keeps you afloat in hard times.

So, what is the gist of what the healthcare debate means for you?

A dirty secret which seems to be lost on President Trump and the GOP is how things unfold when hard things happen to good people. If, because of genuine health problems which they did not choose, people in Carpentersville, Plainfield, Mount Greenwood, Streamwood, or name- your-Chicago-neighborhood lose jobs and an ability to survive via work they have always been proud of, then when it rains it pours. There are housing, relationship, financial (sometimes bankruptcy) issues. And issues of mental illness and substance abuse are all too frequently not far behind. We see it every day. It’s an illusion to think as a society we’ll save money ignoring these friends and neighbors of us all by way of crushing their health care prospects for the sake of giant tax cuts for the rich.

Trumpcare and the GOP plans do just that. What does it mean when the fellow who wants to showcase his name on every building, steak, “university”, tie, bottled water and fragrance does not want the GOP plan called for what it is, “Trumpcare”? It’s because he knows he has laid a terrible turd. Nothing says “I’m the champion of the forgotten working class” like a billionaire proposing $157 billion in tax breaks for millionaires.

Certainly not all of our clients are poor. However, when one has chronic health conditions (diabetes, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, complicated uncontrolled seizure disorders, stroke, heart disease, uncontrolled high blood pressure, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and so on) which causes one to lose jobs, lose health insurance, run up medical bills which one cannot pay – well, being “poor” is either present or just around the corner. Or you’re real lucky.

Timely access to care is a life or death matter. The Affordable Care Act (“ACA” ) also known as Obamacare was indeed an imperfect solution. Many would prefer a much simpler single payer system with progressive taxation and the elimination of insurance companies and the billions of profits. Not the GOP. The national debate centers around the Republicans saying Obamacare provides “coverage,” but people can’t afford it while the Democrats cite Trumpcare as providing technical access but people can’t afford coverage. Depending upon where one’s situation falls relative to the subsidies or tax credits involved in either plan, these might seem two sides of the same coin. (That’s what is involved when you hear the GOP criticism about “Obamacare – lite.”)

The problem with the ACA and the eight years the GOP so strenuously fought it, and the problem still now, is this which one must always remember – a key thing dividing the GOP on health care is that a lot of them want to take it away from MORE people, and faster.

Everyone associated with actually making progress on the bipartisan recognition of the nationwide opioid epidemic sees readily and clearly the lie associated with Trump touting he’s going to tackle these issues when Trumpcare represents a frontal attack on this issue and so many other people.

One’s thinking regarding notions of the poor, and Democratic solutions moving too far in that direction, might be “that’s too bad; I am a decent person and uncomfortable that some other people must be having terrible poverty trouble but I’ve worked hard and am in a heap of challenging trouble myself and there must be some form of a necessary tradeoff, somebody other than me must at some point bear the costs of a decent result for the country. The deal man Trump and the GOP have a reverse Robin Hood plan where they are going to take money from the poor. And whether you’re in that category or not, or you or a family member might just be there soon, their plans do not involve taking that money and helping you –nope, Trump and the GOP instead hand the money to the rich.

It is very unusual that so many impressive organizations have strongly opposed what Trump is telling you is or will be Trump-terrific. These include:

  • The American Medical Association–putting the lie to the cherished GOP claim of a “patient centered care” result;
  • The American Hospital Association–they see people with untreated chronic illness and know how much that costs Americans one way or another;
  • AARP–they know and explain how Trumpcare, as clarified in the independent Congressional Budget Office report, will cause older people with health issues to become uninsured;
  • The National Physician’s Alliance–Trumpcare not what he or GOP are promising and “will instead wreak havoc on the system, and harm millions, to benefit a privileged few“;
  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness–a non-profit organization guiding families, NAMI has no financial interest and they recognize that under the ACA “no one can be denied insurance because they have a mental health condition” while Trumpcare changes that;
  • Autistic Advocacy–“Insurance will be harder to buy, and insurance companies will be allowed to charge more money for worse health coverage. Twenty-four million Americans will lose health insurance by 2026 per the Congressional Budget Office.”

There are many others but one organization comes to mind when I keep thinking of Kim, the 47 year-old waitress from Wood Dale who has all kinds of health problems after years of honest work. Kim’s husband worked in the construction industry but now gets $1400 per month having retired early due to his own health problems. Well, the American Nurses Association, which represents 3.6 million registered nurses, says Donald Trump is breaking his healthcare promise.

What can or should be done? Call your member of Congress at (202) 224-3121, press 2 and give your zip code. Organize, vote, and send this to your neighbors. Yes, resist.