Billionaires are controlling the fate of our healthcare. This may not come as a surprise, knowing the entrenched history between large GOP donors and the party agenda, but this has gone too far. The politicians getting their pockets filled by billionaires are more concerned with what their donors—and potential future sponsors of political opponents—want than how their healthcare bill will devastate millions of people.
On June 27, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was forced to delay the vote on the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act—or as we call it, Trumpcare—after not being able to summon the 50 votes needed to successfully push it through, and major GOP donors are not happy. That’s because in order to move on to their self-profiteering tax reform agenda, Republicans have to free up enough money in the federal budget to be able to afford to give massive tax breaks to the wealthy. That is exactly what Trumpcare offers by cutting nearly a trillion dollars from Medicaid and the subsidies that made insurance in the marketplace more affordable for low- and middle-income workers. If this bill passes, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that at least 22 million people will be kicked off their current health insurance plan, and the 74 million people who rely on Medicaid will either be removed or have the healthcare services available to them dramatically reduced, all to give a $541 billion tax cut to the top 1 percent and major corporations.
Among the major donors pushing for the passage of this deadly bill, the billionaire Koch brothers—whose enterprises range from manufacturing to oil—sit on top, controlling the Republican Party and wielding their financial influence over the candidates they catapulted into office. The Koch brothers’ political network helped finance the rise of the Tea Party following the election of Barack Obama, and is now the powerhouse behind the GOP agenda. Their goals are two-fold: maintain and create tax loopholes for the super wealthy and limit government regulation on everything from the environment to labor to education.
These two billionaire brothers have had a hand in controlling the agenda for a long time. Since 1980, the Koch brothers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on political campaigns and conservative lobbyists, including the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation. They also founded Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a conservative political advocacy group that lobbies for lower taxes and less government regulation, spending millions on campaign ads that oppose Democratic candidates and playing a key role in the movement to oppose labor unions. In the 2016 election cycle alone, the Koch brothers planned to spend close to $900 million, begrudgingly getting behind then-candidate Donald Trump. And more recently, the brothers announced on June 24 that they plan to allocate between $300 and $400 million to promoting candidates favorable to them during the 2018 political cycle in response to Democrats battling to regain control of the House.
During a weekend donor retreat just before the July 4th Senate recess, the Koch brothers warned elected officials that time is running out to push their agenda through Congress. While they and other major donors are angry that the Senate is not done with healthcare, they are dissatisfied with the current version of Trumpcare, voicing sharp criticism that it does not go far enough in repealing the Affordable Care Act, ending Medicaid as we know it, and handing unbelievable profits and discriminatory power back to the insurance companies.
Doug Deason, son of billionaire Darwin Deason and a giant donor out of Dallas, Texas, warned Republican lawmakers that the “Dallas piggy bank” was closed until a bill was pushed through. He stated, “Get Obamacare repealed and replaced, get tax reform passed. You control the Senate. You control the House. You have the presidency. There’s no reason you can’t get this done. Get it done and we’ll open it back up.” He and the other donors want the outcome that they paid for before 2018 comes and they run the risk of losing control of their Congress.
In the absence of a replacement plan that satisfies the billionaire donors, the Koch brothers made a pointed recommendation to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement, a move that would catapult the number of people set to lose their health insurance to 32 million. The Freedom Partners, a Koch-backed conservative group, first offered up the proposal in January, saying, “The best way to provide relief to Americans suffering under Obamacare has always been to fully repeal Obamacare and work together to fix our broken health care system.” They floated the idea again during the June retreat to Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska. Reportedly, Sasse then proposed the idea to President Trump, who ended up Tweeting his endorsement of the plan on June 30, seemingly with no notice to McConnell or other members of Republican leadership.
Nathan Nascimiento, Freedom Partners’ vice president said, “While we are continuing to work with the Senate to help improve their current legislation, the two-step repeal and reform approach that Senators Paul and Sasse have proposed would put Congress and the administration in the position to keep their promise and deliver that relief.”
But Trumpcare will not bring relief to the majority of Americans. The Senate Trumpcare plan is not a healthcare bill at all, but rather a way to transfer an extraordinary amount of wealth from the disabled, elderly, pregnant and poor to the rich, connected and powerful. 43 percent of Medicaid funding goes to services for people with disabilities, and Medicaid pays for almost 70 percent of nursing home care and half of all births in this country. If Medicaid is slashed by 35%, if families lose the subsidies that allowed them to purchase insurance in the marketplace, if people with pre-existing conditions can once again be discriminated against, if insurance companies can place a lifetime cap on coverage for people with chronic or serious conditions and refuse to cover essential health services, the results will be devastating.
If Trumpcare passes, people will die. States will have to choose between covering wheelchairs for students or proper maternal healthcare, in-home assistance that keeps a loved one out of an institution or drug treatment and counseling for people fighting opioid addiction. Women will go back to paying more money for less coverage as their life experiences from domestic violence to pregnancy are considered pre-existing conditions. Hospitals and nursing homes will close, especially in rural communities, and people will go without desperately needed treatment and life-saving medications. And Mitch McConnell will get to keep his seat in the Senate, his health insurance, and his influence.