In what might be the most immediately life-threatening and cruelest victory for the GOP since Donald Trump’s election, the American Health Care Act just passed the House of Representatives, 217 to 213. If it passes the Senate and then the House again, the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act will leave 24 million Americans without healthcare. That’s partially because the bill allows states to roll back requirements for essential services and cut $880 billion from Medicaid, the latter’s expansion of which has benefitted millions of low-income and minority people. The “Zombie Trumpcare” bill was voted on without any House hearings; similarly, the Congressional Budget Office had zero time to do a financial analysis.
One of the most insidious elements of the bill is that it punishes those who received coverage for the first time under Obamacare. After years without coverage, these people were finally able to see doctors and begin badly needed and costly treatments. Under AHCA, some of those diagnoses, now on their medical records, will qualify as pre-existing conditions. States will have the option to opt out of covering those with “pre-existing conditions,“ effectively leaving these people uninsured.
The bill also outlines an expanded list of pre-existing conditions that do away with any pretense that white-dude Republicans in the House Freedom Caucus have anything less than vindictive disdain for female reproductive health—and women in general. Here are just a few things that can make a woman ineligible for medical coverage under the AHCA: having had a C-section (used in one-third of all births), having been the victim of domestic violence and having been the victim of sexual assault. People wonder why women are reluctant to report sexual assault, but the GOP just gave them a damn good reason to be. The bill’s olive branch: a measly five-year stipend of $8 billion added to the existing $130 billion high-risk pool set up to help cover increased medical costs of all Americans determined to have a pre-existing condition.
Under the new bill, out-of-pocket costs for prenatal care for would-be mothers without coverage could rise to more than $17,000 dollars. When you consider that under a GOP-led governement, access to abortion facilities is already on the chopping block, a health care bill that then makes it unaffordable for women to even bring a fetus to term is ridiculous.
Heartbroken and furious people are taking to Twitter to share stories of how this will affect them and their families. One tweet from journalist Britni de la Cretaz has already gone viral.
I just texted my husband to apologize for going to hospital after I was raped bc it could affect our insurance coverage if new bill passes.— Britni de la Cretaz (@britnidlc) May 4, 2017
After the bill passed, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom retweeted it, adding, “This is our new reality. I am sick to my stomach.”
The AHCA also brings back the "lifetime limit of benefits,” meaning that even if you do manage to qualify for coverage, there’s a lifetime cap on how much the program will spend on your healthcare. As many mothers on Twitter have pointed out, premature and sick babies often surpass that limit before they even leave the NICU.
President Trump and the GOP have done a lot of bad shit since January—attempting to ban people from entering the country because of their religion, stripping away environmental protections that could keep this planet inhabitable—but passing the AHCA is straight off the wish list of a comic book supervillain turned legislator. As Representative John Lewis put it, “Never have I seen legislative action that reveals such clear disdain for the human dignity of the most vulnerable among us.”
There is a silver lining here: analysts don’t expect the bill will make it past the Senate. “Members have been asked to vote for a bill that is particularly treacherous, that is going no where in the Senate,” Pennsylvania Republican Charlie Dent told The New York Times. “This legislation will be gutted and we will have voted for a bill that will never become law. Will it cause headaches for people? Absolutely.” Representative Louise M. Slaughter of New York, added, “I have never seen political suicide in my life like I’m seeing today.”
That doesn’t make today’s event any less despicable. The New York Times put together a helpful chart that shows how every representative voted. Find your representative on this chart, and if they voted to deny healthcare to anyone who’s ever been sick before—or anyone who’s been raped—it’s time to unseat them in next year’s midterm elections.
Better yet, find out who’s going to be running against them in the midterm, donate to their campaign and call your representative and tell them why you’ve done so. Make it clear that voting to let their constituents die will not be tolerated.