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Screenshot, House Ways & Means video

Many voters in the midterms said healthcare was their top issue, and that (plus Trump) was why Democrats took an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives. So it makes sense that the first hearing the House Ways and Means Committee held was a session yesterday on preexisting conditions. There was discussion of real policy, but it didn't get too much in the way of Republicans claiming they do so care about preexisting conditions, they just want to repeal Obamacare and then figure out a way to keep people insured. Bet the free market will take care of it!

The opening statement by committee chair Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts) got right to the point: The Affordable Care Act put an end to the days when an insurance company could deny you coverage (or jack up your rates) because of prior illnesses you've had. And Republicans have spent most of their time since the ACA was passed trying to undo it, and under Donald Trump, they've had some success, even without repealing Obamacare.


Four million Americans have lost health insurance coverage since President Trump took office. That's four million Americans who previously had insurance and now must pay their medical costs fully out of pocket or delay needed medical care. And earlier this month, the Administration acted to reduce the tax credits by $900 million while raising the out-of-pocket maximums by an additional $400 per family.

The ranking Republican on the committee, Kevin Brady (R-Texas), had sent Neal a letter insisting it was time to get past Obamacare, because "Congress needs to talk about the future, not just the past." So of course his opening statement was devoted to what a terrible deal Obamacare was, what with being written "behind closed doors" and how it was passed without a single Republican vote, and there's your vision of the future all right.

While Neal had pointed to the ongoing lawsuit by red states to completely undo Obamacare as an example of Republicans' real attitude toward healthcare, Brady insisted it was no big deal. You see, if the Supreme Court ultimately upheld a federal judge's decision killing the ACA, said Brady, Congress would surely create a solution "within a couple hours" to protect people with preexisting conditions, because gosh, Republicans really care very much about the fact that voters think that shit matters.

Much of the testimony was about the need to keep coverage affordable by having a lot of healthy people in the healthcare market, because if ACA policies are only sold to sick people, the premiums go through the roof. Of course, the Trump administration has done nothing but undermine the stability of the Obamacare marketplace by allowing people to buy crap plans that don't cover major healthcare needs, but have lower premiums. A witness with the American Cancer Society, Keysha Brooks-Coley, testified the big "cost saving" innovations by Trump's HHS, association health plans and short-term insurance, are simply inadequate for people who find themselves facing major illness like cancer -- and so instead of treatment, they get to start a GoFundMe and hope for the best.

Were there theatrics? You bet! For one thing, the Republicans declared the hearing itself an act of political theater, because look how unfair the Dems are for reminding everyone why they won last fall. Devin Nunes insisted that "Everyone up here wants protections for people with preexisting conditions. Always have, always will," although of course most of the versions of Obamacare "replacement" Republicans have pushed also let insurers impose penalties for preexisting conditions. Even the big Republican proposal last year to "protect" preexisting conditions only mandated that insurers sell policies to people who'd been sick -- but allowed the policies to exclude actual coverage for those preexisting conditions. But hey, it had the words "Ensuring coverage" in it, so of course it was good.

In one of the hearing's more dramatic moments, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisconsin) announced she has been under treatment for small cell lymphoma for the past 10 months, and that the cancer is in remission now. But wouldn't you know it, she went and politicized her own health, how tacky:

This is a cancer I will live with for the rest of my life, but, because of my high-quality healthcare and insurance coverage, it is not a cancer I will die from.

It's a pretty good argument for the value of keeping healthcare available -- maybe even demanding it be made available to everyone, if that's not too crazy.

And then for all we know (we haven't watched the whole four hour hearing), somebody cried bitter tears about the prospect of Medicare for All turning the USA into Venezuela, and it was time to go home, because any fool knows it's Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax that will really turn us into Venezuela. Who knows! Maybe we'll even become Venezuela three or four times.

[The Hill / WaPo / Alice Ollstein on Twitter]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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