Time to Resist Republican Health Policy

In the guise of fixing some acknowledge flaws in the Affordable Care Act, the GOP's "repeal and replace" plan is actually a huge tax giveaway to health care corporations and the rich -- at the cost of slashing accessible, affordable health care for working families.

/By Patty Snee/ The Trump Administration and Republican leaders in Congress have offered a disastrous health care proposal. If passed and implemented it will gut the Patient Care and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and slash Medicaid. 

Millions of American individuals and families who were not previously insured gained coverage under the ACA and through the expansion of Medicaid in the past six years.  It's estimated that approximately 20 million people have come into the health care system since the implementation of the ACA.  Pro-consumer reforms relating to pre-existing conditions, limits on what older policy holders can be charged, and what women can be charged have helped more people gain access to affordable health care. While there are some problems in the system, notably rising premiums and the cost of prescription drugs, (which account for about 10% of health care spending) actual benefits and the percentage of people with health plans has increased significantly.  We have reached the lowest rate of uninsured folks in our country's history.

Republicans like Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Tom Price (who is now the new Health and Human Services Secretary) who raised concerns about Obamacare during Obama's Presidency could have worked with the Administration, with Democrats, advocates, and experts to address any shortcomings in the law. 

 Instead,  House Republicans chose to vote for repeal almost 60 times (with no alternative legislation),  pressured Republican governors NOT to accept expanded Medicaid,  tried to demonize proponents of the ACA (and they continue to do so as seen at recent Town Hall meetings) and  repeatedly attacked providers like Planned Parenthood.  Much of their energy went into wasting taxpayer dollars and the Congressional calendar on useless hearings and multiple repeal votes.

Instead of engaging in serious discussions about health policy many Republicans spread falsehoods about the ACA (remember the death panels?)  When it came to health care, Trump's campaign promises were based on alternative facts and a complete lack of understanding of how programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and the ACA work.  Incredibly, just two weeks ago Trump admitted he had "no idea how complex health care issues are."

That's some of the history and background.

 Fast forward to this week when the GOP revealed and introduced its plan and their true intentions around health care policy.  We now know definitively that rather than building on the successful pieces, products, and programs currently  in place the Ryan and Trump plan will dismantle the ACA and put in its place a far less comprehensive, affordable, and fair health care system.  The essence of their plan is to take the government funding (in the form of things like subsidies and middle class tax benefits) that average Americans  are using to help cover the costs  of medical care and transfer it to insurance and drug companies and the wealthiest Americans. Their plan puts at grave risk the health care of millions of people while giving away at least $465 billion in tax breaks to some of the most profitable companies and richest families in the world.

This is a bad plan.  And the process that the Republican leadership is foisting on our elected representatives in order to get their plan passed is downright undemocratic.  Under the GOP timeline there is absolutely no opportunity for public input and for robust Congressional debate and vetting.  They are moving ahead with no budget score and analysis about the impact on coverage from the Congressional Budget Office.  They seem to have no interest in hearing accounts from real people or getting the perspective of health care experts who could all bring important perspective about the proposed measure.  

This plan is a raw deal. People will lose coverage because so many important provisions from the ACA are eliminated.   For example, employers with more than 50 employees will no longer have to pay for employee health coverage, tax credits will be dramatically reduced, and people with pre-existing conditions will experience hikes in premiums. Insurance companies would be able to charge seniors up to five times as much as young people.   Medicaid will be restructured in a way that hurts recipients and expenditures will be capped in a way that will result in huge losses to state budgets and states' ability to provide care. Mental health services and drug treatment programs that people from all walks of life rely on, especially those dealing with opioid addiction, will likely disappear for many  thousands of people in need. 

This plan does harm by dealing a blow to the health security of everyday Americans and families.

The proposal also singles out and defunds Planned Parenthood, which will cut down on their ability to provide a range of vital services like well woman care and cancer screening.  

This Republican plan punishes women and poor people. It also undermines the well being of most Americans including  seniors, children,  people with chronic diseases and conditions,  and folks who are relying on Medicaid while they are between jobs or waiting to get a job with benefits.

Fortunately, the plan is being met with fierce opposition. Progressive Maryland is one of the groups fighting back.  Our view is that our country should be preserving and strengthening the ACA, Medicaid, and Medicare.  In 2017 we should be talking about policies that expand care and that will create more good paying jobs in the health sector, not measures that throw people off healthcare and reduce jobs. We should be doing more to rein in the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, not giving them more power.

Please join us in this critical fight.

 Learn more: Read and share the important report we just released from Health Care For America Now and the People's Action Institute.   Check out the article by Richard  Kirsch who helped lead and is now advising the Health Care For America Now campaign.  http://bit.ly/2lEB1pT Click the link to state legislation that would create a special commission to deal with the consequences of federal policy changes. Health Coverage Commission Bill Advisory.doc

 Take action:   join the campaign to contact Governor Hogan.  Call 410 974-3901 during regular business hours  and ask him to speak out against cutting the ACA and slashing Medicaid. Tell him he needs to hold public forums to talk to Maryland residents about their concerns about the GOP plans for health care.   Ask him to support the Health Commission Bill SB 571 and HB 909.        

If you live in Congressional District 1 come to Rep. Andy Harris's Town Hall on March 31 in Easton.   Check our website later this month for details about this Eastern Shore event.

Get Involved: Contact us at patty@progressivemaryland.org to learn about what you can do to save our health care.  We need help phone banking, staging and turning out to grassroots actions, and organizing and canvassing in your community.