Ernest Urvater: Questions columnist’s views on health care

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Jay Fleitman’s attempt to spin the Republican Party’s health care bill (‘Separating fear from fact in health care reform,’ July 5) is a valiant effort, but it is truly puzzling to find a man of science scrambling to avoid the actual data.

Fleitman says, “The major problem in assessing the Republican Senate plan is being able to find out exactly what is in it. I have been unable to find an impartial description of the bill’s contents in the news media.” Where have you been, Dr. Fleitman? How about taking a look at the Congressional Budget Office assessment, an organization which is universally relied upon to evaluate the implications of any piece of legislation?

The CBO analysis has been covered extensively in the media — everyone has seen the numbers. We all now know that it would provide the richest households in the United States with lavish tax breaks (something that Republican bills on almost any topic invariably attempt). The CBO estimates that 22 million more people, overwhelmingly lower and middle income people, would become uninsured by 2026, with 15 million losing their health insurance next year alone. It is hardly surprising that opinion polls report overwhelming disapproval of the bill.

“For the middle class, do we want to cover every dollar of cost incurred by health care, or do we just protect our citizens from catastrophic losses? How much of our decision making do we cede to a central government?” Fleitman asks, invoking, knee-jerk anti-government free-market fundamentalism. A more pertinent question might be: how much should we cede to the health insurance industry and big pharma, both of which were reported to have been active participants in secretly crafting the bill?

One would think that Dr. Fleitman would at least make reference to the assessment made by his own professional organization. In an NPR interview, Dr. David Barbe, President of the American Medical Association opines, “You know, there are not really many parts of this that we like. If we go down the list of things — does it improve coverage? No. Does it improve affordability? No. Does it stabilize the safety net, Medicaid? No.”

Ernest Urvater