Obama Rips Republican Health Care Bill as 'Massive Transfer of Wealth' to the Rich
Barack Obama sharply condemned the healthcare plan unveiled by Senate Republicans on Thursday as a “massive transfer of wealth” to the rich, at the expense of poor and middle-class Americans.
In a Facebook post hours after the Republican bill was made public, the former president made some of his most pointed comments since leaving office in defense of what remains the most signature accomplishment of his two terms.
“The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a healthcare bill,” Obama wrote. “It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America.”
“Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family, this bill will do you harm,” he added, while highlighting some of the more contentious provisions within the legislation, such as tax breaks to top earners and drug and insurance companies, and the potential gutting of coverage for pre-existing conditions, pregnancy and mental health.
“Small tweaks over the course of the next couple of weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.”
Obama has largely kept out of the political fray since his departure from the White House – weighing in on just a handful of Donald Trump’s actions through written statements, such as his successor’s travel ban on refugees and several Muslim-majority countries, and the decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord.
But Obama’s personal stake in the healthcare debate, and his concern that Trump and Republicans will dismantle the Affordable Care Act, has transcended the other matters that have dominated Washington under the new administration.
While accepting a “Profile in Courage” award at the John F Kennedy presidential library in May, Obama similarly urged members of Congress to be guided by courage while approaching the issue of healthcare, saying it required “some courage to champion the vulnerable and the sick and the infirm”.
In his post on Thursday, Obama notably echoed Trump’s alleged assertion behind closed doors that the healthcare legislation passed by House Republicans in May was “mean”. Democrats have adopted Trump’s characterization into somewhat of a slogan to rally against the Republican healthcare proposals.
The Senate bill released on Thursday has already faced some early opposition from conservatives who say it does not go far enough in repealing and replacing Obama’s healthcare law. Obama urged Republicans on Capitol Hill to not simply be driven by meeting a campaign promise, but to instead think about the potential for millions of Americans to lose their insurance. While the Congressional Budget Office is expected to score the Senate legislation by early next week, the House-passed bill would leave 23 million more people uninsuredover the next 10 years.
“I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican party,” Obama said. “Still, I hope that our senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on healthcare or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.”
“After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics,” he added. “It’s about the character of our country – who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.”