|From Nevada Independent|
Nevada’s Senator Dean Heller has announced that he will vote to debate Republicans’ efforts to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Long on the fence, and widely believed to be opposed to cruel Republican policy that will particularly affect Nevadans, Heller has ultimately heeded the urgings of a sociopathic Vice President, the threats of an unhinged President, and the blandishments of a fork-tongued majority leader to toe his party’s jack-booted line.
Heller released the following statement, provided by KTVN: "Obamacare isn’t the answer, but doing nothing to try to solve the problems it has created isn’t the answer either. That is why I will vote to move forward and give us a chance to address the unworkable aspects of the law that have left many Nevadans - particularly those living in rural areas - with dwindling or no choices...If the final product isn’t improved for the state of Nevada, then I will not vote for it; if it is improved, I will support it."
On its face, this might seem reasonable. Heller has not yet endorsed the bill, largely because his party’s leadership has not yet deigned to tell senators what they are debating. Presumably this secretive process, driven more by the twisting of arms than actual policy discussion, is part of the Republican Party’s Trump-led project of “draining the swamp”. McConnell’s ploy of forcing a debate on an unclear measure is designed to conflate support for debate with support for the bill, building pressure on wavering senators like Heller.
In caving to McConnell, Pence, and Trump, Heller is rewarding their bad behavior--bad because it is about bad policy; bad because it is secretive and un-democratic; and bad because he knows that it takes him one step closer to supporting a bill driven by a party that has zero interest in the public interest or welfare.
Increasingly, the Republican Party is driven by economic fundamentalism and social zealotry. They loathe the ACA, but each of their alternatives have been demonstrated to make tens of millions of Americans uninsured, and tens of millions more less insured by design. By supporting debate on such a bill, Heller made clear that he is willing to vote on a measure that contains these basic, unacceptable elements, provided it also contains a few of his pet bones.
Ultimately, Heller himself will probably choke on those bones, for Nevadans have proven themselves hostile to Trump and the Republican Party’s agenda. But people will suffer badly in the interim.
If Heller had been actually interested in addressing the inadequacies of Obamacare, he might have considered how the patchwork of healthcare reforms over a period of decades, combined with inadequate regulation of both the insurance industry and the medical industry, represent an uneven where not losing proposition to Americans. The most popular features of our ramshackle healthcare structure are those which are universal in their character.
The unevenness and inadequacy, the failure to control costs and those who drive those costs, and the popularity of the principle of universality, all point inexorably toward some version of “single payer” healthcare, whether that takes the form of state payments to a firmly regulated industry, or a state-built structure. Both systems have been proven to work with lower costs and better results in other countries, and answering this point with mechanical invocations of American exceptionalism sounds increasingly desperate and pathetic.
If Heller were serious about reforming healthcare in the interests of his constituents rather than to serve the rigid and baleful dogmas of his party’s pledge-takers and paymasters, this is the conversation he would have launched. Instead, he has endorsed the basic principles of his party’s efforts to reverse the uneven and inadequate gains of Obamacare, and has encouraged them in their efforts to lay waste to the efforts to improve the livelihoods of Americans.
Dean Heller will have one more chance to stave off disaster when it comes time to vote on the bill itself. But by bowing to the pressures of his party leadership, he has further imperilled Nevadans and Americans, taking us no closer to a serious conversation about how to make healthcare a right for all Americans. Instead, Heller’s cynical approach has brought us nearer to the triumph of an ideology that has already deeply damaged our country’s institutions, political economy, and the livelihoods of our families, friends, and neighbors.