Paul Ryan And GOP Healthcare Reform Still Lacks Empathy For The Poor [Opinion]

These days, House Speaker Paul Ryan has found himself in the doghouse over health care reform, which has been criticized by just about everyone, from Democrats to moderate Republicans, to doctors and hospital associations, to more conservative factions within the GOP.

On Wednesday, Ryan continued to fight despite opposition from all sides.

The house speaker told Fox News, “Obviously the major components are staying intact because this is something we wrote with President Trump. This is something we wrote with the Senate committees. This is the plan we ran on all of last year.”

He went on to stress several times that the plan involves a “trillion-dollar tax cut.”

But, policy aside, the GOP’s revisions of the ACA lacks one important ingredient: empathy for the poor.

Paul Ryan walking by a flag at the GOP National Convention in 2016.

Paul Ryan and the GOP’s lack of empathy for the poor has been noted for quite some time. Back in 2012, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote about it in an article called “The Empathy Gap.”

“Still, there are times — in Ryan’s case and more generally for much of his political tribe — when that lack of empathy just takes your breath away. Harold Pollack catches Ryan calling his proposed cuts in Medicaid, food stamps and more welfare reform round two, and suggests that our current suite of safety net programs is ‘a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.’”

But Paul Ryan’s mission to defeat the Affordable Care Act has been clear from the start. When he finally got his chance, Ryan heard from a cancer survivor and former Republican at a town hall meeting. The man told Ryan that the ACA saved his life and asked him to explain why he seeks to repeal it without a proper replacement.

Afterward, Ryan reassured him that the GOP aims to replace the ACA with something better and more affordable for everyone.

But the GOP American Health Care Act, which many people claim is the brainchild of House Speaker Ryan, clearly shows Ryan’s claims at the town hall meeting were false. In a recent report, the CBO determined Trumpcare would leave 24 million Americans uninsured by 2026, including 14 million by 2018. The plan would hit older, lower-income Americans the hardest, as this quote from CNN illustrates.

“A 64-year-old making $26,500 would pay $1,700 for coverage in 2026 under Obamacare, thanks to its subsidies. But under the Ryan plan, that person would get hit with a annual premium bill of $14,600.”

At a town hall in January, Paul Ryan was also confronted about the proposal to defund Planned Parenthood. A college student in the audience mentioned that Planned Parenthood provides many important health care services, such as cervical cancer screenings and yearly examinations.

She told the house speaker, “I can tell you personally that Planned Parenthood provided help when I couldn’t go to anybody else. So my question for you, Speaker Ryan, is: If Planned Parenthood is defunded, then where will millions of women, low-income groups, and people like me go?”

Ryan told the woman, “First of all, I want to make sure you get the care you need. We want to make sure all women get the care they need.”

He then stated a reasonable replacement would be a federal community health centers. However, the Washington Post pointed out that, while Planned Parenthood serves mainly low-income patients, rural health clinics are not required to offer either a sliding scale or family planning services.

According to NPR, the GOP bill proposes to partially defund Planned Parenthood. It also states Medicaid cannot be used at Planned Parenthood, which shuts out those very low-income groups who need the services most.

Paul Ryan giving a speech with American flags in the background.

If Paul Ryan were born with a platinum spoon in his mouth, his apparent disregard for the plight of the poor and less fortunate could perhaps at least partially be written off as a lack of understanding due to his privileged upbringing. However, Ryan himself has benefitted from a “government handout.” At 16, he received Social Security survivor benefits after his father died of a sudden heart attack, which was money he used to pay for his college education.

Although he has far from given up the fight, House Speaker Ryan and many other GOP leaders may very well reap what they’ve sown come next November.

“One of the things that’s becoming increasingly clear is that the GOP reform bill is going to hit many of their key constituencies especially hard. The bill allows insurance companies to charge older patients more, while giving them a tax credit that in many cases will be worth far less than the ACA subsidies they’re getting now. Working-class voters will find it harder to afford insurance. The suffering will be particularly acute in rural areas.”

In the end, Paul Ryan may end up learning the hard way that it pays to care about the poor.

[Featured Image by Brennan Linsley/AP Images]