The Health Care Collapse Is a Victory for the Truth

7/19/17
 
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from The New York Times,
7/18/17:

After Donald Trump won the presidency, many Americans despondently wondered whether facts mattered anymore.

Trump, after all, won the presidency despite a constant stream of falsehoods. He launched his political career with a lie about Barack Obama’s birthplace and just kept on lying, about almost every imaginable subject. He also admitted to being a sexual molester. He refused to release his tax returns, unlike every other modern nominee. And yet he was elected president of the United States. There was, and still is, ample reason for despondence.

But the events of the past few months, and especially the last few days, offer some reason for encouragement. They have demonstrated that facts still matter and that truth has some inherent advantages over falsehood. That’s the No. 1 lesson to take from the collapse of the Republican health care bills.

In trying to pass a bill, Trump and his Capitol Hill allies had some big advantages. They controlled every branch of the federal government, and they were willing to ignore decades-old congressional traditions, such as holding public hearings when writing major legislation.

They had only one big weakness, in fact: They weren’t dealing in reality.

They had spent years making up untruths about Obamacare. They said it was written behind closed doors, even though it wasn’t. They said it was a big-government takeover, when it was actually a combination of conservative and liberal ideas. They said it was collapsing, when in fact it has mostly worked well — and its flaws, while real, are eminently fixable through bipartisan legislation.

Those arguments served Trump, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan very well when they were running political campaigns. Once they took power, however, they had a problem.

They didn’t have a real-world health care plan. They had a set of talking points. When they tried to turn those talking points into a bill, the result was a disaster. It would have taken insurance coverage from millions of people and worsened coverage and raised costs for millions more, many of them Republican voters.

Experts from across the ideological spectrum belittled their bill. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office dispassionately explained the damage it would do. Groups representing doctors, nurses, retirees, hospitals, insurers and people with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and birth defects all opposed the bill.

Too many Republican senators understood that the bill’s defenders could make up fictions about it for only so long. And those defenders certainly tried. In the last few days alone, both Vice President Mike Pence and Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, made blatantly untrue claims about the bill’s contents.

But, thank goodness, a handful of senators understood that they wouldn’t be able to create their own reality forever. Eventually, real people would lose real health insurance and be denied real medical care for their illnesses.

“I did not come to Washington to hurt people,” Senator Shelley Moore Capito, of West Virginia, said Tuesday, helping to doom the latest bill. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, explained, “This just creates more chaos and confusion.” Susan Collins, of Maine, cited the “deep cuts” to Medicaid coverage — the same cuts Pence and Price had tried to deny.

I remain worried that Trump may somehow make another run at shrinking health insurance coverage. But his basic problem isn’t going away. Facts still matter.

They’ve won a resounding victory this week.

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