Gail Collins: Getting freedom from health


What’s the rush on repealing Obamacare? It’s true President Donald Trump did promise speediness during the campaign. But that was before he discovered that health care was … “complicated.”

This sort of thinking will send us back to discussions about how our president has no permanent convictions on any subject except the inferiority of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a reality show host. Let’s move on. We have a national disaster to watch unrolling.

Under orders to do something immediately-fast-quick, the House has begun to race through what Republican leaders hope will be Obamacare repeal and replacement so swift their membership will hardly notice it’s happening.

“They just want to get it out and get it on,” grumbled Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the leading Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which rejected a proposal to hold the bill until Congress got the requisite estimates on how much the whole thing would cost and how many people it would leave uncovered. Details shmetails.

“We can act now or we can keep fiddling around and squander this opportunity to repeal Obamacare, and begin a new chapter of freedom for the American people,” said Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the chairman of another committee that’s pushing the bill through at lightning speed.

This offers us our annual opportunity to recall when Janis Joplin sang that freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

The Republican replacement bill is very big on freedom.

There’s freedom for wealthier Americans not to pay taxes that help subsidize health insurance for their low-income fellow citizens. Freedom for those who can afford coverage to refuse to buy it. Freedom for insurance companies to hike their prices for middle-aged customers. Freedom for the states to stop providing Medicaid-backed health insurance for maternity care, when nearly half of all the births in the country are currently covered by Medicaid.

“It gives power back to the insurance companies to discriminate against women’s health care, which is more expensive, obviously,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.

Our new health and human services secretary, Tom Price, is very big on the freedom of doctor-patient relations. Price, a surgeon, talks constantly about keeping the government from stepping in the middle. (“You need to know that what your doctor is recommending for you is exactly what he or she believes is right for you based upon education and science, not based upon what Washington is telling them he or she must do.”)

Unless, of course, the doctor and patient are deciding whether or not she wants to terminate a pregnancy.

The Obamacare repeal bill makes it much less attractive for insurance companies to cover abortions in their policies, and includes a ban on federal funds for Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood does not get federal funds for abortions, but it does get a lot of money for its other work with underserved poor and rural Americans. Trump has let it be known that he’d support the organization if it just stopped providing abortions, period.

So you’ve got two sides here, people. One believes all Americans should have the freedom to make their own decisions about their bodies. The other believes all Americans should have the freedom to not have health insurance. You pick. But do it fast.



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