Stop repeal of Obamacare now!


By Dorothy Inman-Johnson
Special to the Outlook

GOP Senators are currently hatching a plan behind closed doors to repeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA); and replace it with a plan that eliminates most of our health benefits and throws over 23 million Americans off Medicaid. Longreads, an article by Dantelle Tcholaklan, states “A Georgetown University report found rural areas will be hit the hardest by Medicaid cuts…Medicaid covered 45 percent of children and 16 percent of adults in small towns and rural areas in 2015.” Those areas include Wakulla, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Liberty, Jackson, and Jefferson counties, most of which gave Trump his highest votes in the Big Bend in the 2016 presidential election. Ironic that the same small town, rural America that elected Trump will be hurt most by his policies.

The Senate proposal, like the bill passed by the U.S. House, will repeal Obamacare, end Medicaid expansion, make affordable coverage for pre-existing conditions disappear, increase instead of lowering premiums, reduce or eliminate essential ACA benefits like out-patient, pregnancy, pediatric, and emergency care, and places lifetime limits on amounts available to cover our health care. Insurance companies will be allowed to get waivers to deny coverage and to set premium rates as high as they choose. Employers will also be given waivers allowing them to drop employer health plans required under Obamacare. The tax dollars saved by cutting our health care coverage will be redirected to provide tax cuts for the wealthy.

Before Obamacare, private insurance companies could use almost any excuse to deny coverage or increase premium costs. The GOP seems to be freeing them to do it again. The case of Baby Alex, featured on ABC News, is a good example. Alex, four months old, 25 inches long, and 17 pounds, was denied health coverage for being “uninsurably fat”. Not only were insurance companies allowed to decide the pre-existing conditions for which they could deny coverage, but also had total freedom in dictating how high premiums would be for all other coverage. How much over weight could you be before you were no longer eligible for health insurance? Think about it.

To help regular folks understand how the GOP health plans will impact their lives, I invited two executives from health care organizations, Mark O’Bryant (President/CEO of Tallahassee Memorial Hospital) and Charlie Adams ( Deputy Director of Big Bend Cares),  as guests on my June 7 radio talk show, Just the Facts. Mark noted that TMH, a not-for-profit hospital, would be forced to discontinue many of its specialized health services in order to handle the major increase in uninsured residents seeking primary and emergency care. And because more residents would no longer have preventive care through their primary care physicians, patients would arrive at hospital emergency rooms with far more serious conditions that are more difficult and costly to treat. Further, this type care increases healthcare and premium costs to those with insurance instead of reducing costs; because the hospital will have to pass their costs on to those with insurance, causing the insurers to increase rates. Besides the costs involved, the risk of losing lives to preventable illnesses is an even more disastrous and sad outcome.

TMH is a regional hospital, serving Florida’s capital as well as a wide region of small, rural counties; which creates even less access to health services for rural areas with $880 billion in cuts to the federal Medicaid program.  Charlie Adams added that community-based clinics would be forced to turn away more people needing care out of necessity, due to cuts in staff and services no longer affordable; drastically limiting access to health care for the most vulnerable in our communities.

Further, seniors_ my generation_ will have fewer options for care as they age and become less healthy. Medicaid will no longer be readily available to subsidize nursing home care or the expenses to care for the frail elderly in their own homes. This will place greater responsibility on children and grandchildren to cover increased cost and care for parents and grandparents. The same conditions would exist for disabled Americans.

It just seems inhumane that the Republican President and Republican controlled Congress can, without any consciousness of the wrong they are doing, eliminate the right to basic health care to millions of children, elderly, low and moderate income families, and disabled Americans. Let’s hope it is not too late to stop them. Call Senator Marco Rubio (202-224-3041) and Rep. Neal Dunn (202-225-5235) to tell them to stop the repeal of Obamacare. Senator Bill Nelson is already fighting hard to protect our right to good healthcare. And in the 2018 Mid-Term elections, we have an opportunity to elect leaders who will put our needs ahead of political expediency.

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