MALVEAUX: Health Care in the Dark

In this photo taken Aug. 6, 2015, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. McConnell is conceding that his party will have to await the next president before it can cut off federal funds that go to Planned Parenthood. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

My grandmother — and yours, too, probably — used to say that things done in the dark would eventually come to light. There is way too much “dark” public policy being done by this administration, too many instances when whispers and innuendo are substitutes for truth and transparency.

If 45 wonders why there are so many leaks from the Oval Office, perhaps he ought to consider more transparency. Instead, he veers in the other direction, with lies and secrets.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, principal deputy White House press secretary, did a good job of playing bait-and-switch at the June 22 press briefing. Sanders could not answer questions clearly, especially about 45’s Twitter assertion that he made no tapes of his conversation with fired FBI Director James Comey. This admission comes more than a month after 45’s May 12 suggestion that he might have tapes of his conversation with Comey. His threat was, perhaps, meant to intimidate Comey, but it apparently had an opposite effect and now the president is mired in several investigations.

The fact that Huckabee Sanders, who is as comical as her boss, Sean Spicer, could not answer questions was only one part of the flawed press conference. Broadcast networks were not allowed to broadcast the press conference. They had no notice that they would not be allowed to broadcast.

According to one CNN commentator, the cameras were set up, prepared to broadcast, and their feed was turned off. What are they afraid of? Are they afraid that their smirks and sighs will be interpreted as disrespectful? Are they afraid that broadcasting moments like the one where 45 asked April Ryan to arrange a meeting for him with the Congressional Black Caucus be perceived as racist and condescending? Failing to allow broadcast networks access to press conferences reeks of obtuse fear.

But the 45 press conferences have nothing on the health care legislation that the United States Senate offered up on June 22, with a timeline that calls for a vote to take place before the Fourth of You Lie recess. The 142-page piece of legislation was released and posted online on the morning of June 22, and has already been described as “heartless” and “mean.” There will be no reimbursement for Planned Parenthood. Cuts in Medicaid. Health insurance premiums determined by age. Scant protection for those with pre-existing conditions. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

With such a short time line for voting on the Senate legislation, it is unlikely that there will be time for robust hearings on the provisions of this legislation. So not only were Democrats (and some Republicans) locked out of the drafting process, but they will now also be muzzled in the process of discussing this legislation.

The good news is that Republicans must get 50 (along with VP Mike Pence as a tie-breaker) votes in order for this legislation to become law, and as soon as the bill was released, four Republican senators said they could not vote for it.

Hard-line tea party Republicans are not happy with the new legislation because it does not completely “repeal and replace” President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Moderate Republicans are not happy with the legislation because it is draconian and will make health insurance unaffordable for too many.

Will the Senate take a page out of the White House book and prevent the broadcast of hearings on health insurance? Will Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) schedule enough hearing time? Unlikely, despite requests from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to do so.

This is a clear case of “follow the money,” as the legislation will make people pay more money for less health care. Indeed, it is amazing that a handful of Republicans, behind closed doors, were tinkering with a sector that represents one-sixth of our economy.

While both 45 and Senate Republicans like to do their dirt in the dark, it doesn’t take much light for us to see that their odious actions are devoid of integrity. Surprise, surprise.

Malveaux’s podcast, “It’s Personal with Dr. J,” is available on iTunes. Her latest book, “Are We Better Off?: Race, Obama and Public Policy,” is available via amazon.com.

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