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Slimantics: Wicker determined to hew party line on health insurance


Slim Smith



Roger Wicker is a pleasant fellow. Polite, earnest, quick to smile. 


The junior U.S. Senator from Mississippi is likable. 


He is also predictable, which isn't always the best of traits. 


Wicker came to Columbus Tuesday and spoke briefly to the Columbus Rotary Club before moving to the next room at the Lion Hills center to address the Lowndes County Republican Women. 


The hot topic was health care and if the audience was looking for someone to regurgitate the Republican talking points, no one left disappointed. You can count on Wicker to always toe the party line. 


Wicker said he was disappointed, but not discouraged, by last month's vote on a Senate plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, which fell one short vote of passage. 


Take heart, Wicker said Tuesday. 


Wicker compared that defeat to Dunkirk, Britain's heroic rescue of its Army from the shores of France, which is currently the subject of a popular movie. 


Just as the Brits recovered from a "setback" in its fight against the Germans, Republicans have suffered disappointment but will likewise rally heroically to save millions of Americans from having health insurance. 


The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office scored all three of the GOP's possible options for addressing health insurance. The House version was projected to take away health insurance from 26 million Americans over the next nine years. The Senate version would only strip 24 million Americans of health insurance. A repeal only option, considered by both the House and Senate, would end health care for 18 million people within a year and 32 million by 2026. 


Cuts to Medicaid would begin to decrease within three years in both House and Senate versions and under the Senate plan Wicker voted for, people closest to age 65 would pay five times more than the youngest people purchasing insurance on the marketplace. Deductibles for the poorest Americans not eligible for Medicaid would be prohibitively high, the CBO estimated. 


Oh, and none of the plans were determined to reduce the cost of health care, which has been the Republicans' stated goal for almost seven years now. 


To all this, Wicker smiled politely, acknowledging that the Republican plans "may have had its flaws, but what doesn't?" 


Yeah, and the Titanic leaked a bit. 


Besides, Wicker said, you can't rely on the Congressional Budget Office because they based their reports on "projections." You can see that flaw, obviously. You ask the CBO to look at a plan and try to determine its impact and, wouldn't you know it, there they go predicting things. 


By overwhelming numbers, Americans have rejected all three Republican options on healthcare. Support for any of the three never rose above 30 percent in any poll. 


Americans haven't despised anything this much since New Coke hit the market. If the GOP health care plan was a TV show it would be "Hello, Larry." If it were a song, it would be "Muskrat Love." 


Wicker is not discouraged by any of this. 


Clearly in a military state of mind, Wicker said that like MacArthur wading ashore on the Philippines, the Republicans "shall return" to their plans to replace a flawed health insurance plan with a far worse one. This is like taking your mind off a cut finger by smashing your toes with a sledge hammer. You forget all about your finger. 


So Wicker smiles and soldiers on. 


After all, as Churchill noted, sort of: "Never was so much taken away from so many by so few."


Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]


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