“The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill.”
In terms sharper than anything else he’s offered in his post-presidency, Barack Obama lashed into Senate Republicans on Thursday for pushing a health care bill that he framed as fundamentally inhumane.
“The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill,” the former president wrote in a Facebook post. “It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely.”
“Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family ― this bill will do you harm,” he added. “And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.”
Obama has been relatively muted on these matters since leaving the White House, choosing to weigh in on some major debates in only the most surface-level of terms. But the Affordable Care Act is his signature domestic achievement and his willingness to chime in with harsh indictments indicates that he, too, thinks it is under existential threat.
And he’s probably right. A few weeks ago, it wasn’t entirely clear whether the Senate would be able to put together a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. But an incredibly secretive legislative process culminated on Thursday with the unveiling of legislation that would dramatically scale back Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, potentially weaken protections for consumers, and likely swell the ranks of the uninsured.
Obama won’t sway the votes of any legislators on the Hill. But his commentary is likely designed to encourage activism among his supporters. And it’s notable that he framed his critique in a similar vein to what President Donald Trump offered when he deemed the House and Senate health care bills “mean.”
“I hope our Senators ask themselves ― what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage?” Obama wrote. “What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?”