Mo Brooks' Trumpcare Comments Dangerously Equate Health & Virtue

by Katherine Speller
Screenshot via CNN

As politicians continue to debate the fate of the House Republicans' revised healthcare plan, Mo Brooks, an Alabama Congressman who defends the bill, argued that people who "lead good lives" are harmed by legislation that ensures people with pre-existing health conditions are covered fairly by insurance companies. In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on Monday, Brooks defended amendments to the proposed plan that allow states to "opt out" of Obamacare service regulations that require plans to cover certain benefits and prevent insurance companies from charging enrollees more based on their medical history. Per CNN, Brooks said:

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. That 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 — that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.

His comments soon had health advocates concerned as they implied that people who live with preexisting conditions are not leading good lives and should have to pay more because of it.

Just the same, Brooks' understanding of health, morality and economics remains problematic. Considering pre-existing conditions include all medical conditions prior to enrolling in an insurance plan — things that range from asthma, diabetes, cancer diagnoses, and even pregnancy — determining that some individuals are somehow more virtuous than others by avoiding illness or living a certain lifestyle creates a false dichotomy that there are "good" and "bad" sick people.

Realistically, the people Brooks discusses who "lead good lives" and have "done things the right way" are — in addition to having more than a little genetic luck — likely also have the resources to afford certain foods, the privileges of ample time to maintain a work-out regimen, and opportunities to access preventative care without economic anxiety.

While Brooks also told Tapper he understood that "a lot of these people with pre-existing conditions have those conditions through no fault of their own," he called it a "tough balancing act" to ensure those people get the care and assistance they need. Just the same, he defended the amendment (known as the MacArthur amendment) to the original GOP healthcare bill. While technically not allowing health insurance providers to deny care to sick people, the amendments would allow them to charge more, limit the benefits covered on different plans, and make such care harder to access.

Brooks' comments once again push forward a disturbing narrative that insists that so-called "healthy people" are wrongfully burdened by paying into healthcare that benefits those who are sick. Furthermore, his words are indicative of a line of reasoning that will come up again and again as the healthcare debates continue.

Images: CNN