McSally on Healthcare

az healthcare

McSally voted for Trumpcare

Jun 2, 2017

Martha McSally votes 100% in line with Donald Trump’s positions. That includes her May 4th vote to pass the Republican health care bill. [1]

She was apparently eager to do so. At the GOP “pep rally” prior to the vote, she stood up and blurted out, “Let’s get this fucking thing done!”[2]

The bill McSally voted for effectively eliminates the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions.[3] Previously, she had promised her constituents she would never do that. At her Town Hall in February:

“We’ve got to make sure that people with pre-existing conditions get access to health care. They should never be denied.”[4]

And again, in March, in a statement to the Tucson Weekly:

“Rep. McSally is committed to ensuring that individuals with pre-existing conditions have access to affordable coverage options and cannot be denied health insurance. She will work to ensure the House reform package includes these protections.”[5]

Even aside from the provisions affecting pre-existing conditions, this legislation could have a devastating impact on McSally’s home district. Upwards of 40,000 of us could lose our health care coverage.[6]  The drastic cuts to Medicaid (more than 800 billion dollars) would cause severe repercussions here. One example: almost half of patients at El Rio Community Health Centers (which McSally has said she supports) are covered by Medicaid.[7] So are more than half the births in Arizona.[8]

Polling shows the majority of her district disapproves of the Republican health care bill, 57 – 30%. Independents disapprove 61 – 27%.[9]

Medical and patient advocacy groups also overwhelmingly oppose the bill. A partial list: AARP, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, the American Health Care Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Federation for Suicide Prevention, the Catholic Health Association, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the March of Dimes, the National MS Society, and on and on…

So why did McSally vote for it? This seems relevant: the Congressional Leadership Fund announced in March it would go “out of its way” to support GOP candidates who voted for the bill.[10] This super PAC (backed by Paul Ryan) was a top donor to Martha McSally in 2016, spending over $650,000 on her race against Matt Heinz.[11] It’s pledged to raise $100 million for the 2018 midterms, “twice what it spent in 2016 and eight times what it spent in the 2014 midterm.”[12]

It’s already begun: in late May, the American Action Network, a sister organization to the CLF, announced a $2 million ad buy in support of 21 candidates, including McSally.[13] The campaign donors showed their contempt for voters by filling the ad with deliberately misleading statements, as well as the personal testimony of a woman who falsely claims her family lost its health insurance due to Obamacare (it was actually the result of a computer glitch).[14]

Major contributors to the Congressional Leadership Fund[15] include casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, and hedge fund manager Paul E. Singer (who has also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for McSally’s campaign through other means). [16]

These men are all billionaires who stand to benefit enormously from the trillion dollar tax cut at the heart of the bill. Specifically, if this bill becomes law, it would mean an $883 billion tax cut for the wealthy – $274 billion of that going to the richest 2%.[17] In fact, the top 400 highest-income taxpayers will save an estimated average of $7 million each.[18]

McSally’s donors may be in that club, but her constituents certainly aren’t.  There are no billionaires living in her district.[19] Yet somehow she saw fit to vote for what Sen. Ron Wyden calls a “scheme” that “will give billions upon billions of dollars in tax cuts to the most fortunate at the expense of the most vulnerable.”[20]

McSally’s talking points on healthcare don’t hold up

McSally frequently repeats misleading Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell talking points on health care. She claims, as Ryan and McConnell do, that the Affordable Care Act is “collapsing under its own weight” – in spite of the fact that the Congressional Budget Office, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and the American Academy of Actuaries have all contradicted that false claim. [21] [22]

Another favorite McSally tactic is pointing out that Arizona’s health care exchange had the highest premium increases in the nation in 2017. This is a true statement, but it’s also misleading, because of what she leaves out: Arizona’s subsidies also rose at the highest rate in the nation. Most participants in Arizona’s health care exchange receive subsidies to help cover their costs, so they did not pay significantly more for their health insurance from one year to the next.[23] McSally undoubtedly is aware of that fact.

Nevertheless, at her Sahuarita town hall, she referred to the “disastrous effects” of the ACA, without mentioning any of the positive results, such as the more than 500,000 Arizonans who have gained health care coverage, the improved financial footing of our hospitals and health clinics, and the increase in health care employment (one of every five new jobs in Arizona is in health care).[24]

Additionally, we have yet to hear her acknowledge that many of the problems with the ACA are the result of deliberate attempts at sabotage from members of her own party, such as Sen. Marco Rubio’s attack on the risk corridor provision. [25]  It’s true that Arizona’s health care exchange is struggling, while other states’ exchanges thrive; that fact would seem to indicate there are changes we could make to emulate other states’ methods and improve our outcomes. But McSally has never indicated any interest in trying to repair the current system instead of dismantling it.

Ironically, at the same time she’s refusing to work to improve the ACA, she boasts about working to improve the Republican health care bill. But the GOP’s piecemeal attempts to throw money at the problem were all too little, too late to address the core issue: the bill would remove $993 billion in federal funding from the health care system. For instance, $8 billion in funding was attached at the last minute, supposedly to help sicker people facing higher costs. But the CBO determined that “the funding would not be sufficient to substantially reduce the large increases in premiums for high-cost enrollees.”

McSally in particular trumpeted her own achievement in securing additional funding for maternity care and substance abuse treatment. Here’s what the CBO had to say on that subject: “CBO anticipates that the funds would not significantly affect premiums in the nongroup market… Out-of-pocket spending on maternity care and mental health and substance abuse services could increase by thousands of dollars in a given year… Moreover, the ACA’s ban on annual and lifetime limits on covered benefits would no longer apply.” Specifically, the CBO anticipates that maternity coverage alone would cost an additional $1,000 a month.[26]

McSally also got a lot of positive press for sponsoring a bill that would require members of Congress to use the same health care system they were voting on. But there was a catch, and her fellow AZ Rep. Ruben Gallego called her on it right away, tweeting:
“Ur bill is a sham. Members buy healthcare through the DC exchange. DC exchange will never have lifetime caps or preexisting condition ban.”

U of A law professor David Marcus provided a fuller explanation of McSally’s attempt to mislead the public in an op-ed to the Arizona Daily Star.

In an interview with AZPM’s Bill Buckmaster, McSally defended her vote for the AHCA by pointing out that it’s partly modeled on Maine’s high risk pool program, which McSally claimed was “very successful.” That statement is highly misleading, for several reasons.