Thursday, June 29, 2017

Hiding out on Health Care: Deny. Delay. Distract.

Greg Walden cannot distract the way Trump does.  Walden is quiet, modest, earnest.   So he hides out from the Trumpcare disaster he helped create.

Deny. Delay. Distract.

Two days ago this blog observed that Greg Walden was hiding out.  He had climbed high up onto the GOP leadership ladder and was made Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee that had primary responsibility for writing the "Repeal and Replacement" of Obamacare.   Greg Walden was in the center of the great national policy debate on health care.  

Busy at work
Problem for Greg Walden:  He sold an impossible dream.  He is now stuck with a broken promise.   He sold people what they wanted--what anyone would want, something really wonderful in the form of patient centered health care that was affordable, accessible and really, really great.  Walden, like Trump, told people that if elected he would create a health care system that was cheap, universal, simple, and excellent.  The grave problem for Walden is that what he sold is, of course, impossible.  

In the real world the public could get one of those four, not all four.  The House version of the health care bill settled on "cheap."   The House and Senate bills are less, not more, but they are in fact cheaper.  Taxes on people earning $250,000 or more will go down, and many of my former clients are delighted.

Some 120,000 of Walden's constituents--people do do not earn $250,000 a year--will lose health care access.  It means that rural hospitals in Medford, Ashland, Klamath Falls, Bend, Pendleton, will go into a financial death spiral because they will provide emergency services from people who cannot pay.  It means uninsured people go to collection and bankruptcy.   It means he breaks his promise to make possible affordable health insurance to people over age fifty who have pre-existing conditions.  

It is miserable to need to tap dance politically, asserting things that are arguable, but essentially untrue, things that he wants to be accurate but which are contradicted by objective facts.   Walden doesn't want to be dishonest, but he is stuck.  

News Photo from Politico
Strategy number one is to deny.   The story Walden and his colleagues are putting out is that things are in fact OK and that even though there is less money that people who really need a subsidy will get it and that even though the high risk pools don't have enough money to support access for people with pre-existing conditions that, somehow, they will work.  Perhaps the states will pony up the missing money.  Meanwhile, they criticize the CBO reports which say that less money means less coverage.  And they advertise, running sunny ads declaring victory.

Walden knows better, but some of his colleagues are asserting that everything will be great and they are sticking to the story.  After all, possibly the states will really step up.  Possibly Oregon will find money somewhere and use it for healthcare not PERS and higher ed and infrastructure.  It is possible.  

Strategy number two is to delay.  Actual implementation of much of the reductions do not take place until after one or two election cycles, not until after 2018 in the House version and after 2020 in the Senate version.   You are all right now, what's the concern?

Strategy number three is to distract.  Greg Walden's website talked about everything else he is doing other than health care, which this blog reported two days ago.  Yesterday I received an email update from Greg Walden.  Here is the web version of the email:  "Quick Update" e-mail    He is busy with the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection problem, busy touring The Dalles Dam to see first-hand the inner working of hydropower generation, going to work to reopen the Cultus Lake Forest Service campground, meeting rodeo fans at the Crooked River roundup, seeing the widow of a victim of pancreatic cancer, meeting Oregon home builders, meeting students involved with Oregon Rural Electrical Cooperatives, expanding broadband internet access, advocating for career and technical education, and urging people to keep in touch with him on the various important issues that face them.     

Town Hall look
These are all matters of concern for a Representative, but notice what is missing:  Not a word about the issue that represents 1/6th of the economy, that is the culmination of 7 years of attacks on Obamacare, that is the daily headline news as the country sorts through its options, and that was a primary responsibility of Walden personally and in his committee.

Walden does not have the personality for a first class distraction.  The news photo above catches Walden at a candid moment.  It is classic Walden:  1.  behind someone else.  2. looking earnest and attentive and sincere.  3. mouth shut, listening.   His overall demeanor is serious and helpful, not showy.    His appearance at the Rogue Valley Town Halls are a reiteration of this.   

It is the Greg Walden nature to be modest, unassuming, earnest--and to hide out from the grim truth that his healthcare "repeal and replace" is nothing like what he told people it would be.  He had the exhilaration of selling a dream and now he has to live with a reality that contradicts the dream.  It is only natural that he hides.

Even a typo changes the subject
Donald Trump exhibits a different strategy, one that works for him and works at the presidential level.  Big, bold, wild.  The healthcare matter may be the central domestic policy issue but Trump news is all about Russia, Obstruction of Justice, Fake News at CNN, a 2020 fundraiser, the Trump Hotel, Syrian poison gas, Obama letting Russia steal the election for him, and on and on.

Trump can distract with something big.  Walden is doing what he can do:  hide.

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