Sen. John McCain, recently diagnosed with brain cancer, traveled to Washington, D.C. from his home state of Arizona to cast a critical vote allowing for debate on the repeal and possible replacement of Obamacare.
He then cast the deciding vote to defeat the resulting bill, called a “disaster” and “fraud” by the very Republicans who voted for it.
McCain’s initial return to the Senate floor drew a bipartisan standing ovation and his speech, calling for mutual cooperation for the good of the country, received nearly universal praise.
It’s what McCain, a Republican, failed to say that bothered me then and today.
Quality, affordable health care ought to be a human right. Because he has health insurance, paid for by the taxpayers, McCain was able to get medical care at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona worth tens of thousands of dollars. Because he has insurance, he is eligible to receive follow-up treatment that may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
His illness is a terrible thing and he is facing it with the courage one would expect from a former prisoner of war who spent years in one of North Vietnam’s worst prisons.
President Trump called McCain a loser during the presidential campaign because McCain’s plane was shot down. I consider him a hero.
That said, he has failed to speak up for those in our society who have been diagnosed with cancer and could be denied health insurance because of it. That happened in the past, before Obamacare became the law of the land. And it may well happen again if Obamacare is repealed or simply allowed to fail.
I criticized former Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican, when he returned to the Senate after suffering a stroke.
Like McCain, he received a hero’s welcome upon his return to Washington after months of physical and occupational therapy at one of the best rehabilitation clinics in America. He had to relearn how to speak and walk. I can’t imagine the struggle he endured.
I said every person in this country was entitled to Kirkcare. Every mother of young children, every father trying to return to his job and support a family, every youngster struck down by a disease that leaves him permanently disabled, deserves a fighting chance to make it back into the mainstream of society.
And I called on Kirk to join me in taking a public stand.
Instead, he came out against Obamacare.
There are those in McCain’s political party who contend the free market should be allowed to work without government interference, noting that premiums soared under Obamacare and hurt working people.
There is never any mention that premiums have soared for those who continue to pay for health insurance through work, along with co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs. And there are no reminders that during the Great Recession millions of Americans lost their health insurance along with their jobs and discovered that new employers often were unwilling to provide health insurance.
Critics of Obamacare act as if the employment market has not changed and will not change in the future.
But robots are going to be taking millions of American jobs in the future because they’re cheaper and more efficient than people. Employers don’t need to give them vacations, provide sick leave, pensions or health insurance. In a free market, robots are a better investment than human beings.
It’s time to make health insurance a human right. John McCain knows this is a life or death issue. He could have made that point to his admiring Senate colleagues.
His vote killed a health care bill that would have been a disaster if passed, but his vote also allowed that terrible measure to get to the Senate floor in the first place.
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