When I first heard that Senator John McCain had undergone emergency surgery for a blood clot in his brain, I was really worried for him and his family. Those are not simple operations, no matter what the cause or prognosis.
Before news broke that the Senator’s problem has now been diagnosed as an aggressive form of brain cancer, President Trump wished McCain a speedy recovery, adding that “we need his vote.” Trump was apparently referring to efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act or ACA, also known as Obamacare.
Of course, McCain’s opinion of his party’s substitute for the ACA became moot after four other GOP senators publicly withheld their support, in part because the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the latest plan would still result in 15 million people losing their health insurance. Then talk among Republicans turned to simply repealing the ACA and, as the president put it, letting Obamacare fail.
But repeal without replacement also now appears to lack the necessary votes for passage, so there’s reportedly been pressure from the White House on holdouts to reconsider their opposition to the repeal and replace option. And for now, despite all the confusion, the ACA stands.
For people who depend on it, that’s good news. For GOP leaders, it means facing less fury from constituents suddenly without access to medical care they need.
As they ponder their next steps, I hope Senators will think of their absent colleague, John McCain, who received urgent emergency care.
Under the Affordable Care Act, members of Congress and their staffs who want coverage through their employer, the government, can choose among gold plans from several insurers doing business on the Washington, D.C. Health Link. The government pays about three quarters of their premium cost. And if Congress ever does repeal the Affordable Care Act, they’d get equal or better coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, provided they keep their high-paying jobs – an open question, because elections are coming.
Meanwhile, perhaps before casting any more votes on health care, each member of Congress should recall at least one moment when having decent health insurance saved a life they hold dear - maybe even their own.