McCain's right: Collaborate on health care

In keeping with his great character, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, did the right and courageous thing early Friday morning when he cast the decisive vote to kill a health care bill that even its supporters labeled as fraudulent.

Senate Republican leadership titled it the “Health Care Freedom Act.” Attaching the most cherished of American values to this sorry bill added insult to iniquity.

It became known as the “skinny bill,” the text made available at 10 p.m. Thursday, about two hours before the vote. Republicans have apparently forgotten the promises they made in their 2010 document, “Pledge to America,” stating how they would govern if given control of Congress.

“We will give all representatives and citizens at least three days to read the bill before a vote,” it stated.

The "skinny bill" eliminated some of the most unpopular items in the Affordable Care Act, including the mandate that individuals possess health insurance or face tax penalties and that companies with 50 or more employees offer it. These mandates recognized that insurers need a large pool of policy holders, including the younger and healthier, to be able to meet the popular requirements of the act — they cannot deny coverage to people because of pre-existing conditions, or impose excessive fees on the elderly, and must keep children on family plans through age 26.

In other words, it was half-baked. It would have sent insurance premiums soaring and the insurance markets reeling.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, summed things up well prior to the vote.

"The skinny bill as policy is a disaster. The skinny bill as a replacement for Obamacare is a fraud,” Graham said.

Yet Graham would go on to vote for the measure. His twisted logic and that of the other 48 Republican senators who supported it was that the party had to pass something out of the Senate after having failed to back a straight repeal or a comprehensive measure that would have stripped 22 million from Medicaid.

Passing the "skinny bill," went the argument, would allow the Senate and House to form a consensus bill and maybe that would be better.

McCain didn’t buy it. It was a bad bill, inadequately debated, and did not deserve his support. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska also refused to play along.

In his dramatic return to the Senate last week after treatment for a brain tumor that puts his life in grave danger, McCain said things must change.

“The Congress must now return to regular order, hold hearings, receive input from members of both parties, and heed the recommendations of our nation's governors so that we can produce a bill that finally provides Americans with access to quality and affordable health care,” McCain said. We could not agree more.

In a recent editorial we stated, “What most Americans desire is for their elected representatives in Washington to work together and compromise. They want an approach to health care that maintains some of the protections that … Democrats provided in passing ‘Obamacare,’ but with Republican reforms to eliminate the bureaucratic entanglements and mandates that conservatives say are choking competition in the insurance markets and driving up costs.”

The Democratic minority leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, was high-minded in victory. Obamacare survived, he noted, “but it needs improvement.”

“All of us were so inspired by the speech and the life of the Senator (McCain) from Arizona, and he asked us to go back to regular order,” Schumer said. “Maybe this can be a moment where we start doing that. Both sides will have to give. The blame hardly falls on one side or the other.”

Maybe it’s a pipedream in this highly partisan age, but it would be great to see our elected leaders in Washington working together for the good of the people, rather than at odds to position their parties for the next election.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.


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