Hogan’s Worst Nightmare: Trumpcare

By Barry Rascovar

May 8, 2017 – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s worst nightmare is starting to come true. Trumpcare has passed the U.S. House of Representatives. If the Senate finds a way to give President Trump what he wants, it could spell a heap of trouble for Hogan in 2018’s general election.

The Republican Party’s mania with obliterating Barack Obama’s massive health insurance law has led the majority party in Washington to ignore common sense.

“Repeal and replace” is a GOP obsession – though an estimated 24 million people could lose their insurance, tens of millions more could be out of luck due to pre-existing conditions and medical programs for the poor could be cut 25%.

It also would damage the nation’s economy. That’s especially true in Maryland, where healthcare is one of the state’s biggest employers.Hogan's Worst NightmareIt is almost certain to be the No. 1 issue in the 2018 mid-term elections, even if the Senate approves a diluted Trumpcare bill.

What a devastating state of affairs for Republican Hogan. Until the House vote last week, he appeared in excellent shape to win a second term.

Now he has to figure out how to tiptoe around this explosive issue that already is proving highly unpopular.

Unfavorable Poll Numbers

A Washington Post-ABC poll last month found 61% of Americans opposed Trumpcare. A Quinnipiac poll the month before found Trumpcare support stood at just 17%.

Most Americans, it appears, would rather stick with the existing – though seriously flawed – Obamacare medical insurance program and fix parts that aren’t working well (“keep and improve” as opposed to the GOP’s “repeal and replace”).

Wait until the Congressional Budget Office issues its cost and impact analysis of the House-passed version of Trumpcare. It could expose the bill’s soft underbelly. Public resistance could grow louder.

For Hogan, House passage of Trumpcare might be the beginning of bad news.

He could be trapped in a nearly untenable position: A Republican who might have to disavow his own party leaders in Washington to survive.

Hogan won election in 2014 by promising “no new taxes.” Does that mean he will let Trumpcare’s 25% cut in federal Medicaid funds lay waste to Maryland’s health programs for the poor and near-poor? Where would he find hundreds of millions in state dollars to cover those unfunded programs?

How does he run for reelection with Trumpcare hanging over his head?

Justifying Republican Plan

How does Hogan justify to voters his party’s plan to let insurance companies charge outrageously high premiums – or deny coverage entirely – for people with “pre-existing conditions”? This could be anyone with acne, anxiety, depression, diabetes, obesity, cancer, pulmonary problems, asthma or even allergies.

How does he tell older working Marylanders that under his party’s plan their insurance premiums could jump an unaffordable 500%?

How does he explain a cut of $600 billion in taxes that supported Obamacare – a massive windfall for wealthy Americans, insurance companies and medical device companies?

How does he justify $880 billion in healthcare cuts to Medical Assistance for the poor?

Hogan & Company should be praying that the Senate junks the House bill and takes a few years to figure out what to do next.

Otherwise, the GOP across the country – including here in Maryland – could take a shellacking for its all-out effort to appease its conservative base.

Gift to Democrats

There’s no doubt Democratic candidates for Maryland governor will tie Hogan to Trumpcare.

Every candidate will be running ads with tales of how middle-class and working-class Marylanders would be hurt, how lives hang in the balance.

It is a gift from heaven for Democrats.

One Republican pollster called the GOP’s insistent quest to wipe out Obamacare “political malpractice.”

Until recently the notion of Democrats regaining control of the House by picking up 24-plus seats next year appeared wishful thinking. Thanks to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s determination to pass a draconian Trumpcare bill, that’s no longer the case.

Little wonder Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi – the former Nancy D’Alesandro from Baltimore’s Little Italy – was practically giddy.

Every Republican will be vulnerable, unless he or she disowns the GOP’s No. 1 issue and risks losing support from Trump’s supporters. “This vote will be tattooed to them,” Pelosi vowed.

That includes Republican Hogan, who has made an extensive effort to distance himself from Donald Trump and his controversial comments and proposals.

That may not be enough to give him immunity from this highly contagious political disease.

When virtually every healthcare group – from the American Medical Association to the American Hospital Association to AARP – as well as virtually every insurance group vehemently opposes the Republicans’ “repeal and replace” crusade, smart politicians should pay attention.

Failure by the GOP to “listen and learn” could prove fatal come November 2018 – both in Maryland and nationwide.

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3 thoughts on “Hogan’s Worst Nightmare: Trumpcare

  1. samuel jordan

    Hogan Already Merits Voters’ Wrath

    Barry, Governor Hogan has already done much to earn the wrath of voters. His cancellation of the Red Line light rail project in June of 2015 demonstrated a colossal misunderstanding of fiscal and social responsibility and Maryland’s economic development needs.

    After insisting that the Red Line was a “boondoggle,” Hogan has yet to provide a “substantial legitimate justification” as required by law governing recipients of federal transportation funds. Nor has he shown proof that an “equity analysis” of the impact of the cancellation on African American and low income, transit-dependent households was made in compliance with Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act – prior to such a project cancellation. Surprisingly, the Governor and Maryland’s Transportation Secretary, Pete Rahn, have revealed the fabricated rationale for the Red Line’s cancellation in the unlikeliest of venues.

    In his testimony before Senator Kasemeyer’s Committee on Budget and Taxation on February 7, 2017, Rahn misstated the cost and scope of the Red Line project. Between minutes 48:00 and 59:00 of his testimony in support of Governor Hogan’s “boondoggle” characterization, Rahn mistakenly compared the cost of the Red Line downtown tunnel to the proposed B&P railroad tunnel. To prove that the Red Line’s $2.9 billion estimated cost was too meager, Rahn erroneously offered the B&P tunnel as a more appropriate standard for judging the Red Line’s “real” costs.

    What the Secretary didn’t tell Senator Kasemeyer’s Committee was that the B&P project, which was proposed to accommodate high-speed passenger and “high-stacked” freight trains requires a tunnel of four (4) large bores while the Red Line will need only two (2) small bores. Due to these specifications, the B&P tunnel will displace four (4) times the earth per linear foot compared to the smaller Red Line tunnel. It will be at least four (4) times more expensive. Rahn testified that the B&P tunnel would cost $1.68 billion for its 10,000 feet – less than two (2) miles. The Red Line’s 3.4-mile downtown tunnel was budgeted at $1.0 billion by Maryland’s MTA and the US Department of Transportation and selected for funding after thirteen (13) years of study and approval after having met all obligatory regulations and analyses.

    Rahn also did not mention in his testimony the costly, but requisite ventilation and fire safety features of the B&P tunnel project making it an environmental and economic peril compared to the environmentally defensive Red Line electric light rail technology. These features also drive up the cost of the B&P project compared to the Red Line.

    Before completing his remarks, Rahn made another error that further distorted the cost and scope of the Red Line project. He wrongfully testified that the Red Line budget omitted the $200 million cost of a MARC station project at Bayview. A MARC project is emphatically not a Red Line project. These misstatements and errors provide the basis of the Governor’s “boondoggle” claim when accurate data and analyses were always readily at hand. The Committee should have Rahn return and testify truthfully.

    Adding insult to Baltimore’s and Maryland’s injuries, Governor Hogan refused a federal grant of $900 million to build the Red Line. He then allocated over $970 million dedicated by the General Assembly to the Red Line project from the State Transportation Trust Fund to build or expand highways and roads in rural areas of the state – the cost of assuring his re-election. Those funds were generated by the gas tax, yet not one of the projects was targeted for Baltimore. Don’t Baltimoreans pay gas taxes like everyone else?

    Exhibiting again his very weak grasp of central Maryland’s development needs, the Governor was dismissive of the fact that a dollar spent on a $95 million north-south highway in Garrett County in western Maryland and widening Rte. 404 in Queen Anne’s in eastern Maryland returns less than a third of the same dollar’s investment value when spent on light rail transit in the Baltimore-Towson metropolitan area. Cities and states around the country have recently gone on a light rail funding spree approved at the ballot box. Seattle, Portland, Denver, Charlotte, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Boston are examples of this trend. Will Baltimore catch up in time to be a leading city, again?

    The Red Line is the largest public infrastructure project in Baltimore’s history. With its 10,000 jobs, dramatically reduced commute times, a long-needed 14.2-mile east-west modern light rail transit line (Bayview to Woodlawn) that will connect all those disjointed bus and north-south rail routes, the Red Line will provide access to 250,000 jobs within an hour’s reach according to the USDOT. Governor Hogan’s cancellation was punitive.

    Barry, don’t forget the $5.0 billion in projected development activity around the nineteen (19) Red Line stations that will generate another 5,000 post-construction jobs. This transit-oriented development is the gift that keeps on giving. The MetroRail system presented Washington, DC this gift when it was Baltimore’s “junior partner” to the south in the 1970s. Look at what rail transit investment has done to Washington, DC now. The Governor knows. That’s why he cancelled the Red Line but kept the Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.
    More proof of the Governor’s lack of fiscal responsibility in transportation-related matters is the misnomer he uses when he boasts of his decision to reduce highway tolls. He calls the $270 million reduction in state revenues over five (5) years a “savings” when he simply shifted the burden to cuts in other programs including Baltimore’s and Maryland’s education and social services. Everyone suffers.

    Cancellation of the Red Line was a template for punitive de-development of Baltimore having more to do with politics than fiscal responsibility or the economic growth of the City. Early this year, the Governor terminated the decade-long State Center project, a major mixed-use, mixed income, multiple amenity including commercial, residential and public agency accommodations. The State Center project had the input for its design and uses from over nine (9) communities centered on Howard and Dolphin Streets and the rail transit and bus services including Baltimore’s Penn Station, the light rail at Mt. Royal Station, and several bus lines. In other words, the State Center project was a perfect illustration of the benefits and value of transit-oriented development.

    Governor Hogan terminated the project with the same “boondoggle” excuse and slated the sixteen (16) state agencies housed in the Center to be scattered like the State Transportation Trust funds that were dedicated to the Red Line to small towns around the state where his constituents reside. Nothing better than statewide pork to fuel the re-election contest. He ordered Franchot, his comrade-in-arms, to research the feasibility of a sports/entertainment complex, a use that has been proven nationwide to return little of value to the many communities in the vicinity, like a full service, top-quality grocery store, social services, and community activities facilities.

    What about the communities that were involved and learned to trust each after about eleven (11) years of sometimes tense interaction? Bolton Hill, Mount Royal, Heritage Crossing, McCulloh Homes, to name a few participating communities, represent Baltimore’s affluence, Baltimore’s African American and white middle-class, and Baltimore’s historically underserved neighborhoods. Hogan cared little what such collaboration in a massive multi-billion dollar project like the State Center has meant to community cooperation in its planning stages and its projected impact on the improved quality of life, income, access to transit, and walkability, creating a key population, employment, and revenue-generating center in the heart of a city that needs victories like the State Center. Baltimore is still Freddie Gray’s hometown.

    The facts indicate that Governor Hogan has not displayed fiscal management acumen. His vengeful, political campaign against Baltimore sells well with his base. Nevertheless, voters will become aware of his fiscal missteps before November 2018. No one in Maryland benefits when scheming for re-election replaces a Governor’s duty to improve the quality of life and oversee economic growth for all Marylanders, even those who may not have voted for him. It’s time to complete the Red Line.

    Samuel Jordan, Pres. the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition (www.MoreTransitEquity.com)
    May 9, 2017

  2. D.C. Russell

    Hogan’s REAL worst nightmare is Barry Rascovar, who seems determined to associate Hogan everything that Rascovar doesn’t like, especially criticizing Hogan overs matters that have absolutely nothing to do with Hogan’s job.

  3. danaleedembrow

    The irony is that Trumpcare doesn’t repeal Obamacare. The essence of ACA is that citizens must purchase health insurance. Along with that obligation came a lot of patients’ rights, which are popular and desirable, but they can make health insurance costly. So the House GOP comes along, leaving the essence of Obamacare intact, i.e., citizens still have to purchase health insurance; but allows states to opt out of the provisions that require health insurance policies to include certain coverage. As a result, if the House GOP bill were to become law, people would be forced to secure a policy which wouldn’t cover much, if anything at all; and for anyone with a pre-existing condition, like pregnancy or allergies, costs will sky rocket, not to mention bankrupting every state budget by the proposed Medicaid reductions.

    Political malpractice indeed. Any politician who doesn’t stand up to this should pay the price at the polls. We the People are watching.

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