Liberal Column

Jermyn: Why John Katko’s vote against GOP health care bill matters for his Syracuse constituents

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John Katko serves a district that could easily swap parties in a congressional election, but his vote on the AHCA went against the GOP norm.

As Republicans in the House of Representatives rushed to pass an Affordable Care Act replacement Thursday, Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) made the smart decision to become one of only 20 Republican representatives to vote against the bill. It’s a decision that shows that he cares about his constituents — and his own reelection chances.

The bill, also known as the American Health Care Act, is one of the most haphazard, uninformed and downright delusional pieces of major legislation that has passed the House in recent memory.

Republicans, in an effort to make good on their years of calling for a repeal of Obamacare, put forward a bill that was not scored by the Congressional Budget Office, that most representatives didn’t even get a chance to read and that does not align with the interests of the American people.

As one of the poorest cities in the United States, Syracuse’s interest certainly lie with Obamacare rather than the AHCA — commonly dubbed Trumpcare. And as Syracuse’s representative, Katko made the right choice.

The difference between the two bills is stark, as seen by two different charts presented by the Brookings Institute and the Urban Institute. Brookings predicted Obamacare would significantly improve the incomes of those in the lowest income bracket, and it came at a much smaller expense of making more money. But the AHCA makes the exact opposite move, taking from the poor and giving to the rich. Cue Robin Hood rolling over in his grave.

Beyond cost implications, an Obamacare repeal could have major impacts on the lives of millions of Americans. The new bill allows states to opt out of the requirement mandating insurers do not charge individuals more if they pre-existing conditions — including “conditions” such as sexual assault, domestic violence and HIV/STD testing.

The list of these conditions is incredibly offensive to the individuals who have been sexually assaulted and to those who live with medical conditions because it punishes them for factors outside their control. The bill is a perfect example of how incredibly out of touch Republican lawmakers have become during their ceaseless crusade to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

By voting against the bill, Katko is not only showing basic human decency but watching out for himself in terms of his elected position. Over the past few months, Americans have protested at congressional town halls across the country and defended Obamacare.

Katko serves one of the few districts that could flip parties in an election, and given how unpopular the AHCA is, voting for it could have given constituents a major reason to dump him in the 2018 midterm congressional elections.

The AHCA bill transcends elections and politics, though. When late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel opened his show this week with an emotional monologue about his newborn son’s struggle to survive with a pre-existing heart condition, he highlighted the defining principle behind Obamacare and humanized the health care industry.

“No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life,” Kimmel said.

This sentiment is something that should seem blindingly obvious to anyone with a heart, but on Thursday, 217 Republican representatives showed they lack such compassion by voting in favor of the ACHA.

In the midst of all this hatred, though, Katko’s opposition reveals a small glimmer of hope for those in Syracuse who have so much to lose if the AHCA becomes law.

Cole Jermyn is a junior environmental resource engineering major at SUNY-ESF. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at cdjermyn@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @Cjermyn8.

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