As Donald Trump’s Russian investigation circus dominates the headlines and airwaves, Senate Republicans are secretly working on their bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare. So far on what we heard, it’s said to be quite similar to the dreaded American Healthcare Act that passed in the US House of Representatives back in early May save for a seven-year Medicaid expansion phase out. But it’s possible that the US Senate can vote on this bill before the 4th of July recess. Though we may not know what’s in the GOP Senate bill, we need to understand that the Republicans’ vision on healthcare is fundamentally unpopular and has more to do with implementing a massive tax cut for their rich donors and their free market ideology into federal policy. They GOP establishment doesn’t think it’s the government’s job to make sure everyone has healthcare and that publicly funded healthcare expands government power. And they’re keeping their bill a secret in order to keep their healthcare vision pure. But whatever their healthcare bill is, it’s clear it would likely lead to fewer Americans having health insurance and billions being cut from Medicaid. Should the Senate GOP come to a vote in the coming weeks, then resisting such travesty can’t be more important than now. And it’s paramount that Americans speak up against the GOP effort to repeal Obamacare before it’s too late since healthcare touches all our lives.
As a Catholic and a liberal, I’ve always believed that for-profit health insurance is inherently wrong since it makes money on people’s misery and discriminates against the old, sick, disabled, and poor. Nobody should be denied healthcare for any reason. I passionately believe that healthcare is a fundamental right that nobody can take away. As someone on the autism spectrum who’s on Medicaid, I consider such service a godsend and liberating. I’m not ashamed for relying on Medicaid since it government medical assistance has greatly helped me throughout my life. And I’m perfectly fine with my tax dollars paying for other people’s medical treatments, especially if they’re much more disadvantaged than me. Though finding a decent dentist who takes my plan is a pain in the ass, it at least provides the healthcare access I need so finding a job with health benefits isn’t a matter of life and death. If my job doesn’t provide health benefits, then I can purchase a subsidized plan on the individual market thanks to the Obamacare exchanges and the Medicaid expansion. And thanks to Obamacare, I won’t have to worry about lifetime caps or my autism being a preexisting condition. Still, while I don’t think Obamacare goes far enough and would prefer a single payer US healthcare policy, I strongly think that it’s a step in the right direction and improves healthcare access drastically. To repeal and replace it with a healthcare plan that takes healthcare away from people who benefit from Obamacare like myself is malicious and cruel. To me healthcare isn’t about government, money, or whether we should pay for other people’s treatment. It’s an issue of human dignity as well as a matter life and death. The idea of the GOP healthcare becoming law scares the hell out of me. And I’m very afraid I’ll lose my Medicaid and may never be able to get health insurance that’s just as good, or at all. I shouldn’t have to lose my healthcare just so some rich guy can have a massive tax cut he doesn’t even need. Nor should anyone else. I strongly wish the Republicans give up trying to repeal Obamacare once and for all because politicians, corporations, and employers shouldn’t decide who should have access to healthcare. If someone gets sick or injured, they should receive the best care they need without breaking the bank. And I don’t care who that person is, whether they can afford it or who has to pay for their treatment. Because if their life depends on receiving care, then nothing else should matter. And I think it’s an appalling shame that too many people in this country don’t agree with me on that.
Here is a list of reasons why we need to stop the Republicans from repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a cruel substitute that nobody wants.
- The Republican Healthcare Plan to Repeal and Replace Obamacare is being comprised in secret and is being rushed to passage violates legislative due process.– Regardless of what you think about Obamacare, the process to pass the Affordable Care Act was lengthy, thorough, and transparent. In the House the ACA, received 79 hearings with 181 witnesses and 121 amendments as well as took over a year to pass. By contrast, Trumpcare has been rushed as well as negotiated in backrooms without input from experts, stakeholders, or the public. In the House, the AHCA received literally no hearings, no witnesses, and no substantive amendments and the Republicans passed it less than 2 months after revealing it. As of now, a group of 13 GOP Senators are deciding the future of the American healthcare system without following formal processes or seeking public input. Republican senators are now cutting deals on Trumpcare through informal working groups aimed at getting support for their healthcare plan from any holdouts. These working groups don’t include a single female Senator-Republican or Democrat. The Senate hasn’t held any public hearings or listening sessions on Trumpcare. Nor have they asked for feedback from any of the key stakeholders such as the public, children’s or disability rights groups providers, nor small business owners. Nevertheless, on such a major piece of legislation like Trumpcare, public debate is essential since it promotes accountability by leaving a public record of how a law came to be. And hearings give lawmakers the chance to hear from experts on what the bill would do. These GOP procedural shortcuts are the height of hypocrisy and set a dangerous precedent.
- The Republican Healthcare Plan to Repeal and Replace Obamacare is highly favorable to conservative free market ideology.– One of the main reasons for all the secrecy for the GOP drafting their healthcare legislation in secret is that Republicans want their plan to be as conservative ideologically pure as possible. Sure they want to scrap Obamacare but not because it doesn’t cover enough people and rising premiums. But they want to do so because they don’t believe the government should have to provide healthcare or regulate the healthcare industry. Nor do they believe that taxpayers should pay for other people’s healthcare. The GOP isn’t interested in the opinions of families or healthcare providers who will live out the consequences of their decisions every day. What most Americans want more government intervention in healthcare as well as expand coverage and access. The AHCA does the opposite of that which is what the Republicans want, which at its core is to redirect money spent to buy insurance for the poor to $600 billion tax cuts for the rich.
- The Republican Healthcare Plan to Repeal and Replace Obamacare is an unacceptable moral travesty.– Knowing what’s in the American Healthcare Act, it’s very clear that the GOP Senate’s healthcare plan would be no different from this one. A healthcare policy that denies health insurance to millions of Americans isn’t just horrifically unpopular and unsustainable, it’s also inherently cruel. Healthcare is a right that should never be denied to anyone in need of it. A bill that takes away healthcare from millions of people is unacceptable. Denying a poor person lifesaving medical care is not only a death sentence, but also undermines their humanity by reducing them to a financial risk. It also deprives them of a right to live or that their life doesn’t matter. Unfortunately this is the norm in the US healthcare system even with Obamacare though at a smaller scale. And if Trumpcare becomes law, expect such atrocities to happen more often. If we value human life and dignity, then we should make sure that nobody has the right to people’s access to healthcare. Whether this means more government intervention or a taxpayer funded healthcare system shouldn’t even matter.
- The Republican Healthcare Plan to Repeal and Replace Obamacare is wildly unpopular.– There is not a majority supporting the GOP healthcare plan in a single US state. Not one. Less than 20% of Americans Trumpcare. Most American healthcare establishment has condemned it. The reason why GOP Senators are now crafting healthcare legislation in secret is because they know the public doesn’t want it. And they know voting for such a plan could politically cost them big time come 2018. But at the same time, they don’t want to alienate their base and donors who want Obamacare repealed as soon as possible. Though it would be better for Republicans politically as well as the nation, if they just give up trying to repeal Obamacare and leave it alone.
- The Republican Healthcare Plan to Repeal and Replace Obamacare threatens health security for every American.– Unless you’re young, rich, and/or relatively healthy, Trumpcare could determine whether millions of Americans will have health coverage. The healthcare system touches all our lives and a GOP plan to repeal Obamacare could leave millions of Americans uninsured, which can be a matter of life or death to thousands of them. Not to mention, it’s greatly apparent that most of the American public and the healthcare industry don’t want the GOP’s healthcare plan. That doesn’t even get to the fact that the House passed the American Healthcare Act with no input from experts, stakeholders, or the public. Nor did the AHCA received any hearings, witnesses, or substantive amendments to the actual legislation accepted in committee. They tried to pass it 17 days after revealing it and were able to do so in less than 2 months. Surely any major piece of legislation that threatens at least your healthcare security shouldn’t be rushed through a very undemocratic process.
- The American Healthcare Act takes away healthcare from 23 million Americans.-According to nonpartisan estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). This will result in 24,000-44,000 more Americans dying every year from lack of insurance along with medical bankruptcies, lost wages, untreated illnesses, and others.
- The American Healthcare Act hikes deductibles by $1500 on average.– Trumpcare pushes Americans into low quality, high cost-sharing health insurance by providing meager tax credits compared to the Affordable Care Act. This is the opposite of what Trump promised in his campaign. This will have particular negative impact for those least able to pay them.
- The American Healthcare Act ends federal protections for people with pre-existing conditions.– TrumpCare incentivizes states to drop consumer protections, meaning insurance companies will be able to charge people with pre-existing conditions more. 130 million Americans have a pre-existing condition. Insurers in states that adopt opt-out waivers on ACA protections could charge people with pre-existing conditions 10 to 20 times more than others. And the CBO estimates that 1 in 6 people in the country would live in such a state. People could face premiums well over $100,000. Though Republicans are trying to make the case that high-risk pools will protect people with pre-existing conditions, they’ve been tried before and don’t work. And they usually have significantly higher premiums, lifetime limits, enrollment caps, waiting lists, and lock-out periods.
- The American Healthcare Act allows insurance companies to charge older Americans significantly more their healthcare.– A single, 64-year-old adult making 26,500 a year would have to pay between $13,600 and $16,100 in annual premiums, depending on whether they live in a state that sought a waiver from consumer protections. Compare this to the $1,700 the same person would have to pay under the current law, that’s a 950% increase.
- The American Healthcare Act cuts $834 billion from Medicaid, a program that more than 70 million Americans, half of which are children, rely on.– Medicaid is the largest health insurance provider in the United States and is funded by the government. Trumpcare cuts federal funding for the program which will result in states having to ration care and cut the quality of services. This could be devastating for the elderly, people with disabilities, the chronically ill, the mentally ill, addicts, children, and low income families. And many of these people would end up uninsured and unable to get health insurance anywhere else, especially if they have pre-existing conditions or if their employer doesn’t provide it. Under Trumpcare, Medicaid for kids, elderly, and the disabled is radically transformed into a system where states get fixed funding, regardless of their healthcare needs and unexpected disasters like Zika or opioid addiction spikes that drive up the cost of services. It’s estimated that under Trumpcare, 14 million will lose their Medicaid coverage.
- The American Healthcare Act puts lifetime and annual benefit caps on the table for even those with employer coverage.– This means a baby with a serious medical condition could use up its lifetime limits in the first month of life under Trumpcare.
- The American Healthcare Act makes women pay more for health insurance than men.– Because insurance companies could charge more for pre-existing conditions like breast cancer or assault survival and because pregnancy care no longer would be a required benefit, women would once again pay more for healthcare than men. The CBO estimates that woman wanting maternity care will have to add $1000 a month to her premiums.
- The American Healthcare Act defunds Planned Parenthood.– Nearly 3 million Americans, especially women and families receive affordable healthcare services annually at Planned Parenthood facilities. Trumpcare prohibits funding from going to these clinics.
- The American Healthcare Act harms children with special needs by cutting Special Education funds for schools.– Medicaid funds a large portion of education for students with a variety of disabilities. Buried in this bill is a provision that no longer recognizes schools as required Medicaid providers, on top of massive cuts to the program.
- Under the American Healthcare Act, health insurance companies can cover fewer essential health benefits even under employer plans.– Under Obamacare, insurance companies are required to cover a list of 10 essential health benefits including doctors’ services, inpatient and outpatient care, prescription drug coverage, pregnancy and childbirth, mental health services, and more as well as limits out of pocket costs. States under Trumpcare allows states to opt out of essential benefit requirements which will mean higher premiums and more out of pocket costs.
- The American Healthcare Act eliminates the employer mandate for large companies which will result in 7 million American workers losing employer coverage.– Under Obamacare, businesses with at least 50 employees are required to offer health insurance to their full time workers. Trumpcare eliminates this mandate which will result in large businesses dumping people off their employee-sponsored insurance. This will be particularly devastating to low income workers who may be able to afford purchasing healthcare on the individual market, especially if they have pre-existing conditions and higher premiums. And many will certainly not have the Medicaid expansion to fall back on.
- And the American Healthcare Act does all this to pay for $600 billion in tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations.– Providing a massive tax cut to the rich and corporations is no justification for denying millions of people healthcare. I don’t care what your political beliefs are. Still, if you want to finance healthcare access to people who can’t afford it, other people have to pay for it. And for rich people and corporations, that price is relatively small compared to what most Americans have to put up with if they don’t pay the bill.
- The American Healthcare Act will result in more abortions as well as maternal and infant deaths.– Because that’s what happens when you defund Planned Parenthood, cut $834 billion from Medicaid, no longer have pregnancy care as a required benefit, designate pregnancy and disabilities as pre-existing conditions, and cut access to healthcare entirely for millions of women. Lack of access to healthcare is a major reason why a lot of women terminate their pregnancies and why maternal deaths in the US are so high right now. Because when a pregnant woman doesn’t have healthcare access, having an abortion isn’t much of a choice. Because Texas refused to expand Medicaid and has taken great lengths to close its abortion clinics, it now has the highest maternal mortality rate in the entire developed world. Many of these women who die from pregnancy-related complications are poor and uninsured. Not to mention, before Obamacare, it’s widely noted that that insurance companies forced women to abort if their unborn babies had birth defects. A bill funding abortions on demand upholds the sanctity of human life far more than Trumpcare ever could, especially if a poor woman’s alternative is death. If we’re a society who values life and wants to save unborn babies, then ensuring that their mothers have access to healthcare is absolutely vital.
- The American Healthcare Act will exacerbate the opioid crisis.– Under the ACA, substance abuse treatment is considered an essential health benefit health insurance companies are required to cover. Many Americans also depend on Medicaid to pay for their substance abuse treatment as well. While the opioid crisis is devastating at epic proportions, it had existed long before Obamacare was made into law. Yet, if it wasn’t for Obamacare, the opioid crisis would’ve been much worse since many addicts would’ve not had access to treatment. This is especially the case for low income Americans who’ve suffered the most. Trumpcare could deny these people the very treatment they need to get their lives back on track which will result in more overdose deaths, family tragedies, and ravaged communities. Furthermore, under Trumpcare, insurance companies can deny or limit care to opioid addicts since substance abuse has often been seen as a pre-existing condition.
- The American Healthcare Act will result in more lives more deaths and disabilities from gun violence.– Another major public health crisis in the US is gun violence which kills nearly as many people as opioid addiction and costs American taxpayers $229 billion or over $700 per American annually. The total cost of gun violence amounts to more than the total cost of obesity and almost as much as the annual price tag for the entire Medicaid program. This includes at least $8.6 billion in direct expenses such as for emergency and medical care, which can include follow-ups, readmissions, disability, home medications, extended treatments like physical therapy, mental health services, and loss of work. From 2006-2014, the annual cost for initial hospitalizations for firearms injuries averaged $734.6 million per year. Medicaid paid about 1/3 of the costs, the largest proportion while insured patients accounted for over a quarter since most gun victims are young men from low income areas. For every one person who dies from a gunshot, there are 3 or 4 who usually survive. Individuals hospitalized for firearm injury were 30 times more likely to be re-hospitalized for another gun injury and 11 times more likely to die from gun violence within the next 5 years. A gunshot wound can wreck a person’s whole life if they don’t seek proper medical treatment as soon as possible. Many poor people either die or become permanently disabled from gunshot wounds, because they can’t afford the emergency room bill which amount to thousands of dollars. Yet, many suffer with long term physical, mental, and financial problems. And gunshot wounds often drive up US medical costs. Should Trumpcare become law, expect more gun victims leaving hospitals without adequate medical care and more uninsured victims. Not to mention, higher medical costs for the rest of us.
- The American Healthcare Act will result in more preventable deaths.– Despite what one Republican Idaho congressman might tell you, people have died because they were uninsured. Before the American Healthcare Act was passed, a 2009 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that lack of health insurance was associated with 45,000 deaths per year. The study’s author reported that lack of healthcare access contributed to one person dying every 12 minutes. If Trumpcare becomes law, it’s estimated that 22,000 – 44,000 will die a year due to lack of health insurance.
- The American Healthcare Act will hurt the US economy.– The Commonwealth Fund estimates that Trumpcare can cost over 1.8 million jobs. Not to mention, since it will certainly result in higher healthcare costs, expect job loss and hospital closings in the healthcare industry, especially in poor and rural areas. We should remember the healthcare industry accounts for 1/6 of the US economy, employs 19 million people. Also, high premiums, healthcare costs, and lack of affordable options might lead many people to reconsider quitting their jobs to start their own business, a concept known as “job lock.”
- The American Healthcare Act will hurt communities.– Since Trumpcare will make healthcare less affordable, this will leave many hospitals and medical facilities vulnerable to closing, particularly in rural and impoverished areas. Hospitals provide a critical function in local communities. A hospital closing not only costs jobs and revenue, but also cuts healthcare access to the people who live there, forcing them to seek medical care farther away. This can be especially devastating in impoverished and rural areas.
- The American Healthcare Act will hurt Americans’ quality of life.– While Obamacare has its faults, it at least provided millions of Americans with adequate healthcare coverage and options to meet many people’s needs and don’t break the bank. Thanks to the ACA, more people are covered and are more willing to visit a doctor. Not to mention, more people are able to depend less on employee-sponsored health benefits and are able to leave their job to start a business, raise a child, or retire early. And if you can’t find a job or lost one for reasons beyond one’s control, then it’s not the end of the world if your state has the Medicaid expansion. Trumpcare can have devastating implications on people’s lives, especially if they’re unable to get treatment for chronic pre-existing conditions. Many already employed may be forced to return to the workforce and to jobs they despise. Those who can’t find a job would be under increased pressure to find one while those who’ve lost theirs can lose their benefits. But both would be unable to find an affordable healthcare plan on the individual market, especially if they have a pre-existing condition. Same goes for those who lose their healthcare due to divorce or death of a spouse. People in abusive relationships could end up staying with their abusive partners. Those struggling with addiction and mental illness may not be able to seek treatment. Those who can’t work due to illness may end up unable to afford coverage and be forced to postpone treatment, which can make them even sicker. And it increases the possibility for people’s medical treatments driving them to bankruptcy.
- The American Healthcare Act is fundamentally Un-American.– If patriotism should mean anything to us, then it means sacrificing for the common good. Under the ACA, healthier and wealthier Americans pay a little more so sicker and poorer Americans don’t die. A for-profit healthcare system where people are seen to deserve the best deal they can get for themselves just doesn’t deliver that promise. Most Americans know that very well and are perfectly willing to subsidize poorer and sicker people under Obamacare, especially if it means better coverage for them. The Republican passage of the American Healthcare Act in May is a major betrayal to American values. In addition, it’s undemocratic to fast-track a major piece of legislation that would affect people’s lives every day without even consulting them, especially if it’s a policy the public doesn’t want at all.