The Skinny

Back From the Dead?

Can zombie Trumpcare eat enough brains to escape the House of Representatives?

The GOP's so-called zombie Trumpcare bill—the American Health Care Act that was left for dead last month after President Donald Trump warned House members that if they didn't vote for it then, he was moving on—is shambling around Washington again this week, seeking a vote that would restore it to life once more.

The lightning strike that jolted zombie healthcare back to its feet was an amendment from Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), who brought back on board many of the conservative Freedom Caucus members who torpedoed the earlier effort. The Freedom Caucus members weren't satisfied with a bill that, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates, led to 24 million Americans being uninsured and huge jumps in insurance costs for seniors. They balked at several provisions in the original repeal-and-replace legislation, such as protecting people with preexisting conditions from discrimination and requiring that the essential health benefits—such as maternity care and mental-health treatment—be covered. That legislation had dropped in the polls to 17 percent approval before House lawmakers gave up on passing it.

Under the new version of the legislation, states would be able to obtain a waiver to get rid of those protections for consumers as long as they jumped through a few hoops, such as setting up a "high-risk pool" to dump people with pre-existing conditions—cancer survivors, diabetics, and the like. (Arizona never actually implemented a high-risk pool before the Affordable Care Act passed, but it's hard to believe the current Legislature would be willing to fork over the funding that a high-risk pool would require, although it's easy to see state lawmakers seeking a waiver anyhow.)

Southern Arizona Democratic U.S. Reps. Raul Grijalva and Tom O'Halleran remain opposed to the legislation. So where is Republican Rep. Martha McSally?

At the moment, The Skinny doesn't know. McSally spokesperson Kelly Schibi didn't get back us by our print deadline after we inquired via email about McSally's stance on the latest version of the legislation. But Hill reporter Cristina Marcos tweeted that McSally told her: "I'm not publicly sharing my position." The proposal does seem to violate one of McSally's key promises to voters in the highly competitive Congressional District 2: It does not keep intact protections for people with preexisting conditions.

McSally's silence on the latest version of the legislation is a big contrast to where she was on the version that never made it to vote last month. On the day before the legislation was pulled just before it was supposed to go up for a vote, McSally went all in on that legislation, taking credit for adding $15 billion to help with the costs of providing maternity care coverage as well as treatment for mental illness and drug addiction.

But those are conditions that insurance companies must now cover under the existing Affordable Care Act, so the additional funding wouldn't be needed if McSally wasn't supporting legislation that strips those essential health benefits from the law.

Meanwhile, a late April Public Policy Polling survey of 588 voters in McSally's Congressional District 2 shows that Obama's Affordable Care Act is growing more popular. The poll showed that 54 percent of those surveyed supported the ACA, vs. 36 percent who did not and 10 percent who were undecided. McSally's preferred alternative, the American Health Care Act, wasn't nearly as possible: Only 25 percent of voters supported that, while 59 percent opposed it and 16 percent weren't sure what they thought.

The poll was commissioned by Planned Parenthood, which is also under attack in the GOP legislation. The GOP bill is written to narrowly single out Planned Parenthood by making its clinics ineligible for reimbursement should low-income Arizonans decide they want to get their healthcare there—you know, the kinds of services that Planned Parenthood has offered many women (and men) in America, such as cancer screenings, birth-control services, and STD treatment.

The PPP survey shows that 59 percent of the voters in the district have a favorable view of Planned Parenthood, as opposed to 34 percent who have an unfavorable view of the organization. And by a two-to-one margin, voters oppose defunding Planned Parenthood—63 percent said they didn't want to see it happen, as opposed to 31 percent who want the funding to go away.

McSally has supported blocking low-income women from using Planned Parenthood services, saying they should instead go to community health centers to get their care. But despite repeated requests from the Weekly, her office has been unable to provide the names of any representatives of community health centers who want to take over the job now done by Planned Parenthood.

The PPP survey showed that 54 percent of voters said they would be less likely to support McSally if she voted in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood, while 32 percent said it would make them more likely to support her and 13 percent said it wouldn't make a difference.

Kevin Griffis, a former Obama administration Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and current Vice President for Communications of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said that the GOP's newest version of the ACA repeal legislation "took a bad bill and figured out how to make it worse."

The televised edition of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs 6:30 p.m. Fridays on the Creative Tucson network, Cox Channel 20 and Comcast Channel 74. This week's guests are former scientist Geoff Notkin and Diana Rhoades, National Park Service Urban Fellow for Tucson. The TV show repeats Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. The radio edition of Zona Politics airs at 5 p.m. Sundays on community radio KXCI, 91.3 FM, and at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. Sundays on KEVT, 1210 AM. Nintzel also talks politics on The John C. Scott show at 4 p.m. Thursdays on KEVT, 1210 AM.

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