Rep. Carlos Curbelo speaks to fifth-graders in Homestead about climate change and sea-level rise.EXPAND
Rep. Carlos Curbelo speaks to fifth-graders in Homestead about climate change and sea-level rise.
Photo by Denise Mendoza

Rep. Carlos Curbelo Says Quit Complaining About Losing Your Health Care and Making Him Feel Bad

Update 5/15: Protesters at Curbelo's office are demanding that he hold a town hall meeting to explain his vote.

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo is demonstrably full of shit. According to the Miami Herald's Patricia Mazzei, before Curbelo voted to repeal Obamacare last week, the U.S. congressman recorded two video statements — one to explain if he voted for the measure and one to explain if he voted against it. Though the clip detailing why he hypothetically didn't vote for the American Health Care Act (AHCA) hasn't been released to the public, the mere fact that he recorded two statements suggests Curbelo himself has deep reservations about a bill he voted for. Or, worse, he simply doesn't care at all and waited till the last minute for some lobbyist or campaign aide to tell him how to vote.

That fact makes the callous, condescending, and mean-spirited op-ed Curbelo wrote about his health-care vote in today's Herald even more unconscionable and straight-up rude. Curbelo is a Republican who sits in a district that swung left and voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Today he rolled out his new message to Democratic voters who might be upset with him for voting for Trumpcare: Stop asking questions, fuck off, and, in some cases, literally die.

Throughout his 716-word screed, Curbelo repeatedly chides his own constituents for raising basic concerns about a bill opposed by every major health-care and hospital association in America and which the Congressional Budget Office warns will kick an additional 24 million people off their insurance and cut a crippling $880 million from Medicaid funding for the nation's poorest and most defenseless residents.

In fact, Curbelo's op-ed doesn't even mention those facts at all. He just lists a bunch of complaints he has about the current state of health care, while intentionally ignoring the fact that the bill he voted for will make each and every one of those things even worse. There is simply no way in hell he does not know this, especially given the fact that he literally recorded a video likely explaining all of these same things. Instead, he chided the "far left" for calling his vote to rip health coverage from children "cruel."

Carlos Curbelo is the victim here, and everyone should stop making him feel bad.

Astoundingly, Curbelo opens his editorial by admitting that the dire things Republicans predicted about Obamacare never actually came to pass — and that Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) is not destroying lives like the Fox News pundit class predicted for years.

Remember back in 2010 when Congress was preparing to pass the Affordable Care Act? Politicians, pseudo-journalists, and artificial activists from the far right went into full-on panic mode, issuing dire warnings about the legislation’s apocalyptic consequences. People would suffer, they insisted, and our nation would not survive. One prominent, albeit thoughtless, political figure predicted that Americans would face the wrath of so-called death panels if the legislation President Obama regrettably decided to make eponymous became law.

Despite my many objections to the ACA — principled opposition to its excessive government mandates, fines, and threats against citizens and the discrimination against young people, for example — I lamented then the disingenuous nature of the opposition and the despicable tactics used to scare Americans and bolster political fundraising. Deeply flawed and fiscally unsustainable, little doubt remains that the healthcare system must be fixed. But the most drastic scenarios painted by the opposition at the time have simply never materialized.

So then why are you voting to repeal major portions of the bill? And trying to strip funding from Medicaid programs that are working? If the most "drastic scenarios" your own party predicted about Obamacare never came to fruition, why are you now trying to tear its limbs off?

Furthermore: Those "excessive government fines" you so despise aren't going away under the Republican AHCA. Under the new bill, insurers could charge a penalty if you don't have insurance for more than two months, and if you drop out of the insurance market for that small period of time, insurance companies not only get to fine you a penalty but also start charging you more if you have certain health conditions. In practice, the people who drop out of the market aren't doing it by choice; they're largely doing so because they simply can't afford coverage. This bill just fines people for, say, getting laid off from work or saving money to pay back rent to avoid getting evicted.

The same goes for "discrimination against young people." In addition to fining broke millennials who can't afford insurance, the bill takes a sledgehammer to Medicaid, which insures poor children.

Though the idea that the ACA is "deeply flawed" is accurate, there is no way in hell Curbelo believes the AHCA will fix those problems. Obamacare left 27 million people uninsured, and premiums under the law were still way too high. Curbelo voted to "fix" this problem by raising premiums and kicking even more people off their insurance.

Sadly, the far left is today simply imitating the reprehensible conduct exhibited by many on the far right in 2010. Words like “unconscionable,” “immoral,” and “cruel,” get tossed around generously in response to the House’s consideration and approval of the American Health Care Act. Americans are being told that they will die as a consequence of this legislation and that life in our country will be miserable should it become law.

Whoo boy. OK. One: The use of "far left" in this case is hogwash. Curbelo's definition of "far left" apparently includes his own GOP compatriot, Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has repeatedly said she couldn't vote for the AHCA because it did nothing to help lower premiums or improve access to care.

Two: Curbelo apparently is comparing the cynical ramblings of Fox News pundits, who made up the fact that Obamacare authorized "death panels" that would kill your grandparents, to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a nonpartisan government agency tasked with figuring out how laws will affect people.

The federal government says the AHCA will strip coverage from 24 million people. Likewise, the $880 million in Medicaid cuts is written into the bill. The same goes for the fact that the bill reintroduces the concept of preexisting health-care conditions, a concept that both Democrats and Republicans hated in unison before Obamacare passed in 2010. The only people happy about that preexisting-condition rule are health-care lobbyists. That's it. To say the Obamacare "death panel" rumor is in any way similar to the actual analysis from the CBO is an outright lie.

So constituents are supposed to stop calling Curbelo "cruel" or "immoral" or "a partisan dipshit" or "a human being without a backbone or conscience" for trying to rip health care from their families? Do you feel upset that people are painting you as an asshole because of this vote? That is quite literally the point.

Oh: And Republicans love to push the idea that "nobody dies from a lack of insurance" in the United States because you can't be denied coverage if you go to the emergency room. But the ER doesn't give out checkups or provide preventive care such as breast-cancer screenings. Studies from the Pew Charitable Trusts and Harvard University show a clear correlation between access to health care and lower death rates.

One group recently claimed that the proposal would consider victims of rape and domestic violence as having a pre-existing condition, earning a full four Pinocchios from The Washington Post, the highest measurement in deceitful rhetoric. Opponents often ignore key provisions in the new AHCA, many introduced by Democrats, that prohibit discrimination against women, allow young people to stay on their parents’ plans longer, guarantee access to healthcare for those suffering from pre-existing conditions, and more.

Sure, that specific liberal activist group (and others like it) shouldn't repeat that claim. But nobody has debunked the number of people set to lose their health coverage under the AHCA — or the fact that an $880 million Medicaid cut would in fact kill people.

Plus, including this one tidbit implies to the reader that preexisting conditions wouldn't be something they need to worry about if the AHCA passes. But they very much are: Again, the bill lets insurers charge people more for preexisting conditions as punishment for falling into a "coverage gap."

To be sure, the legislation moved out of the House last week is far from perfect and needs to be improved. Many people have serious and legitimate concerns — myself included. However, the sheer complexity of healthcare in America means that no bill will ever please everyone. While some today applaud the ACA, many others are facing higher premiums, fewer options, and reduced access to care. In many counties, like Monroe, there is only one insurance provider left. In some counties in Iowa and other states there are none. That’s right, no insurance options at all for those in the individual market.

It's really amazing Cubelo's political aides signed off on the line about how the "sheer complexity of healthcare in America means that no bill will ever please everyone." This bill will please fewer people than the ACA. Period. Unless you work for Blue Cross Blue Shield, perhaps.

Plus, there is an obvious solution to these issues that Curbelo is simply pretending doesn't exist. Every other developed nation on Earth operates a single-payer system. Studies show patients in those countries pay far less for health care than Americans do while receiving the same or better levels of care.

Plus, simply claiming that "no plan will please everyone" is just a cop-out. He's technically right, but some plans please more people than others. You can use basic polling to figure that out. And people in single-payer countries like their health-care systems more than we like ours, warts and all.

Before last week’s vote I received strong assurances that major improvements would be made in the Senate. I have been in contact with various offices in that chamber for weeks, and I am particularly focused on making sure we increase the amount of the tax credits for lower-income Americans and for those nearing the age of retirement. I was displeased with the changes that raised questions about coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, but hours before the vote we secured the inclusion of an amendment that further protects sick Americans who may have failed to keep continuous coverage in certain states. The legislation guarantees the issuing of health policies to everyone no matter their health status. Almost every person in the country has a family member living with a pre-existing condition, myself included, and I firmly believe all our loved ones deserve access to high-quality care.

New Times sent Curbelo an email asking what actual assurances he got from senators and to name who he spoke with. His office has not responded yet. And, this being politics, just because some faceless bureaucrat "assured" him they'd amend the law to make it better does not absolve him of voting for a bad law, nor does it guarantee any actual changes are coming.

In that last paragraph, Curbelo is referring to the so-called Upton Amendment, which is way more controversial and ineffectual than Curbelo suggests. The bill set aside $8 billion to help states protect patients with preexisting conditions — but experts say that money is far from enough, and the American Association of Retired Professionals says that with the Upton Amendment in place, the AHCA still sucks.

Even worse, the Upton Amendment pushes even more money toward states that set up "high-risk pool" programs, which have been proven to be wildly expensive for everyone involved. NPR interviewed a former patient from Minnesota's now-defunct high-risk pool who was paying $18,000 per year in premiums, for example. If states want to charge people more for preexisting conditions under the AHCA, they need to apply for a waiver — and critics worry that the Upton Amendment will provide a monetary incentive for more states to opt into that waiver program.

For my colleagues who view service in Congress as career, the easiest thing is always to cut and run when controversial issues come up. Being a perpetual No vote takes little work. It’s much harder to be a true legislator and use every resource to strengthen legislation and improve it for your community and the country. I have no trouble saying No. I have said it to presidents of both parties and to my own leadership.

However, I made a promise that I would fight for better healthcare for our country, for a market-based system where Americans, not special interests, are in control and can make the best healthcare choices for themselves and their families.

The legislation before Congress today gets us closer to such a system, though much work remains. With last week’s House vote, that process can continue. And this process should be sober and thoughtful. Only when every American has access to best healthcare system in the world should there be celebration.

These last three paragraphs might as well be one gigantic fart noise. The AHCA improves the lives of only rich people and insurance executives.

How could Curbelo possibly justify publishing this trash? So far, he hasn't answered that question either.

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