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Opinion: Yes Raúl Labrador, No Health Care Makes Us Sicker and Poorer

One has to wonder if Congressman Raúl Labrador of Idaho is a tool or a fool. The Republican Party's new and more cruel health care bill lays bare how much the influence of corporate interests and white patriarchy is woven into the fabric of the principles of the GOP. Labrador's recent foot-in-mouth disease is yet another peek into the attitudes Republicans have towards the weak and the marginalized, and lays bare a fundamental misunderstanding of what makes our economy more productive.

Labrador was recently booed after telling a town hall that "nobody dies because they don't have access to health care." It's a preposterous statement to make and totally unbelievable outside of the mental vortex known as a Donald Trump voter.

Image: Raul R. Labrador
U.S. Congressman Raul R. Labrador keeps a calm demeanor as he answers a question even with boos from the crowd at Lewis-Clark State College. Kyle Mills / AP

A constituent at his town hall stated that the cuts in the bill are a death sentence for the poor. "You are mandating people on Medicaid to accept dying." Labrador's response garnered contempt instead of compliance, but it is yet another example of how the Republican party views the health of the poor as a negotiable budget item to justify tax cuts for the rich.

Labrador tried to clarify his statement in a Facebook post following the uproar, "I was responding to a false notion that the Republican health care plan will cause people to die in the streets, which I completely reject."

He goes on, "...all hospitals are required by law to treat patients in need of emergency care regardless of their ability to pay and that the Republican plan does not change that."

But he is essentially saying the same thing.

He either thinks nobody will lose their health care under this plan, an unmitigated falsehood virtually no analyst agrees with, or he thinks that the millions who depend on access to affordable health care will get the same treatment for their illnesses, their preventative care, and access to regular procedures through the emergency room.

Does he really believe the most humane and economical way to handle the discovery of a lump in your breast is to expect you to go to the emergency room? It is remarkable how foolish he is or how foolish he thinks his constituents are to think making health care unaffordable will improve the lives of American citizens.

The Republicans in the House have been stumbling around trying to convince the country that an almost $1 trillion cut to the Medicaid program isn't a cut at all. "There are no cuts to the Medicaid program," said Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price this past weekend.

Don't believe your lying eyes.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office makes a mockery of the Republican Party's claims that this will improve the health of the nation. NBCNews reports that the bill's cuts to Medicaid are estimated at $839 billion over 10 years by the CBO and make up the most sweeping change to our health care system.

But it's not as if they care. The list of examples is long on the apathy or outright hostility Republicans have for the weak. In an interview about health care, House Speaker Paul Ryan said, "The idea of Obamacare is that the people who are healthy pay for the people who are sick."

The overwhelming assumption the GOP makes is that bad health is something you can plan for. Over 20 million Medicaid recipients receive benefits for special needs, such as blindness or different abilities. The majority of adults with Medicaid benefits also work, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the majority of those who do work have a full time job.

Not being covered by insurance has to do with the economic state of our country and the failure to see health as a human right.

The party of "fiscal responsibility" has hobbled the competitiveness of our country relative to other developed economies. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the United States spends 17 percent of its GDP on health care, but with worse results than most developed economies. The GOP insists on undermining the country's labor force, while also politicizing the growing competition around the world. It has been abundantly clear that our failure to see social goods like health care and education as a right and a contributor to a more prosperous society is hurting our nation. Instead we see education and health care as one might see a television or car. The personal damage this does is not only cultural, but personally destructive to personal finances. Consumer Reports recently released data on personal bankruptcies, reporting that personal bankruptcies were cut in half because of the Affordable Care Act.

The Medicaid program covers over 70 million people according to a report by Kaiser, many of whom are Latino. Kaiser Family Foundation also estimates that over 18 million Hispanics receive Medicaid benefits, many of whom are children who receive health care through the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

A member of the Mormon church, Labrador has often pointed to his religion as a moral guide to his legislation, whether it is same-sex marriage or abortion. We cannot know what is in Labrador's heart, we can only know what the bills he signs do to the poor, the weak, and the marginalized.

His support of this bill is a moral outrage, but even if you didn't care about morality, the notion that a sicker nation is a more productive one is so bereft of economic reason one has to wonder what the underlying intent of the GOP really is in pushing for legislation that will make the nation unhealthier, less prosperous, and more susceptible to personal tragedy.

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