Writing in Tuesday's edition of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Senator Lisa Murkowski, a crucial swing vote on both healthcare and tax reform, announced her support for the besieged GOP tax package.
“I have always supported the freedom to choose,” Murkowski writes. “That is the fundamental reason why I opposed the Affordable Care Act from its inception, and also why I co-sponsored a bill to repeal the individual mandate tax as early as 2013. And that is why I support the repeal of that tax today.”
Experts disagree when asked to consider how repealing the individual mandate tax would affect healthcare markets. Insurers claim the tax helps offset providing care to medically expensive populations, but recent analysis by Standard and Poor's (among other financial observers) indicates the tax may be not be working exactly as planned, and a repeal may not measure up to our fears. Still, 3 to 5 million individuals are expected to lose coverage by 2027.
In July, I criticized the perspective that Murkowski, along with Senator Collins of Maine, deserved at least partial credit for saving healthcare for millions of Americans. Twitter intellectuals branded the duo and suggested we “give due credit to the stalwart women who refused to budge. This belongs to them." I'm sure a few readers dismissed my opinion for hewing so closely to the narrative of a stereotypically angry disabled person.
Dismissed or not, I was correct.
According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan effort of Congress established by the Revenue Act of 1926, the proposed tax structure would financially harm many mid-to-low income families, while shuttling wealth upwards. It does so through a myriad of tiny changes, including eliminating the medical expense tax deduction, a critical provision for chronically ill folks like myself, who often find their claims denied by insurance and are left to pay out of pocket. Even after widespread criticism, this controversial tenet remains in the Senate's version of the bill. Add in the multi-billion dollar reduction in funding for Medicaid, and you have a bill concerning public health more than taxation.
To her credit, Murkowski urged fellow members of Congress to consider and pass Alexander/Murray, a bipartisan, sensible piece of health legislation designed to stabilize our insurance markets. That doesn't mean they will, and recent history indicates that banking on future congressional action is dangerous at best. Like many of her GOP colleagues, this action shows a willingness to gamble with the lives of fellow Americans, nothing more.
Unless you're willing to be dragged from your wheelchair or serve as a human blockade for city buses, I suggest you and your opinion step aside. The tide was changed by disabled bodies clogging the halls of Congress, and women like Murkowski are not allies in the fight for access to healthcare.