7 Terrible Things Republicans Have Said In Defense Of The AHCA

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With a possible House vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) looming on the horizon, some Republican politicians are continuing to take heat for their health care rhetoric. For instance, here are seven terrible things Republicans have said defending the AHCA, the bill that the Trump administration is so desperate to push through the House that the GOP isn't even waiting on a score from the Congressional Budget Office.

As it stands now, the bill appears to be inching closer to passage, thanks to new amendments and tweaks that have made it even more draconian, perhaps the biggest being the MacArthur Amendment, which enables states to let insurers jack up prices on people with preexisting conditions.

Naturally, this would result in a big premiums hike for some very vulnerable people, undercutting some of Obamacare's cornerstone protections. It's also a stark contradiction of President Trump's repeated claims that his version of health care reform would provide coverage for everyone, which he repeated to CBS News' John Dickerson in a recent interview. In short, it's a calamitous policy idea for some of the most vulnerable people in the American health care system, but elected Republican officials are willing to get in front of microphones and defend it all the same.

1. "Just Move If You Can't Afford Coverage"

Got a preexisting medical condition? Worried that the passage of the AHCA will mean insurers in your state will jack up your premiums and make critical, potentially life-or-death care unavailable? Well fear not, because North Carolina representative Robert Pittinger ― a Republican in support of the bill, naturally ― has a solution for you. Just move to a different state!

People can go to the state that they want to live in. States have all kinds of different policies, and there are disparities among states for many things: driving restrictions, alcohol, whatever... We’re putting choices back in the hands of the states. That’s what Jeffersonian democracy provides for.

Now, sure, maybe forcing vulnerable people to uproot their lives and abandon friends and family to move to a different state in pursuit of an insurance market they can actually afford doesn't sound like a good direction to take the American health care system. But on the other hand... well, that's a pretty awful idea.

2. "I Shouldn't Have To Pay To Save Dying Kids"

So maybe there's a sort of intellectual honesty to this outlook. If you stridently believe your tax dollars shouldn't be spent on providing health care to other people, changing your mind because somebody has a heart-wrenching story means you probably didn't think seriously enough about the real-world implications of your policies.

But it's also a deeply unpopular, frankly inhumane outlook. The idea that people of relative means shouldn't have to contribute ― just as every gainfully employed American does through the tax system, one of the cornerstone functions of government that keeps society on the rails ― to keep people from needlessly dying is simply not a political winner when framed in such simple and stark terms.

In short, Walsh has every right to say that Jimmy Kimmel's emotional (and highly relatable) monologue about his son's nearly fatal heart condition doesn't change his mind about health policy. And everyone else has every right to call him absolutely terrible.

3. "Don't Buy That New iPhone"

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Utah representative Jason Chaffetz stepped into some hot water during the first round of negotiations over the AHCA, when he commented during a CNN interview that people who wouldn't be able to afford health insurance under the GOP plan would just have to spend less on other things. For example, iPhones.

And you know what, Americans have choices. And they've got to make a choice. So maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own healthcare.

4. "Obamacare Is In A Death Spiral"

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Time and time again, Republican leaders like Ryan and Trump have insisted that the existing Obamacare law is in a "death spiral," a false claim that's mainly derived from a comment by Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini in February.

In reality, Obamacare continues to operate as intended in the vast majority of the country, although the prospect of an administration incentivized to see it fail ― as well as Trump's openness that he believes the law failing would be politically advantageous to him ― is worrying. While the law has been durable throughout its existence, there's no telling how long it will last or how well it will fare with both the executive and legislative branches eager to see it fail.

5. "Healthy People Shouldn't Pay For Sick People"

In a PowerPoint presentation he delivered in March, Ryan laid out his case for the GOP's Obamacare replacement, framing it as a remedy to the current system, in which younger, healthier people are subsidizing the care of older, sicker ones.

But as countless people pointed out, criticized, and mocked him for after the presentation, that's the very nature of the way insurance works. Those who're healthy but could fall ill at any time buy insurance for the security of it. And the fact that they're paying in without taking anything out enables insurance companies to cover the costs of those people who do need it. Basically, this is core, first-principles stuff. Do you think getting people the care they need should be the utmost priority in public health policy or not? Ryan's answer would seem to be no.

6. "The Bill Doesn't Do What It Says It Does"

During a much-discussed interview with CBS News' John Dickerson last week, Trump seemed to show little-to-no grasp of even the most basic elements of the AHCA bill (which many people are calling Trumpcare). Indeed, Dickerson probed Trump for specifics on the policies within the bill, but the president gave no conclusive proof that he knew anything about it.

And in fact, what he said is good reason to doubt he does ― he insisted that the AHCA would protect people with preexisting conditions regardless of where they lived, when in reality it enables individual states to strip essential protections. Whether this was an example of deceit or ignorance is an interesting question, but ultimately unimportant. What's important is that it's not true; it's an outright falsehood on a matter of existential importance to millions of Americans.

7. "Make The Sicker Pay More"

My understanding is that it will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs, to contribute more to the insurance pool which helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they're healthy, they've done the things to keep their bodies healthy, and right now those are the people who've done things the right way, who've seen their costs skyrocketing.

To be clear, this isn't a situation in which Brooks is simply saying that all people with preexisting conditions have them because they didn't take care of their bodies or make healthy choices, as evidenced by the fact that he subsequently said the government should step in to help people who get sick despite taking care of themselves.

This raises a plethora of questions. How does the government decide when someone's illness was happenstance versus when they caused it themselves through unhealthy behavior? Lung cancer, for example, afflicts smokers at a higher rate than non-smokers. But smoking isn't a prerequisite for having lung cancer ― non-smokers get it all the time ― and some smokers are never afflicted by it. How do you tell one from the other? What government bureaucracy decides whether you're to blame?

Really, like so much of the debate surrounding the bill, Brooks' explanation is an attempt to suggest some people are, by virtue of their choices, more deserving of health care than others. Because the moment you admit that's not true, and that all people should be taken care of even if they didn't make healthy choices, the bottom completely falls out on the traditional Republican line on health care. It remains to be seen whether that kind of draconian arguments will convince enough Republicans in the House to vote yes.