Blair Horner: Washington's Plan To Take Away Health Care Coverage

May 29, 2017

It is now clear: The policy of the President and the House leadership is to take away healthcare insurance coverage for tens of millions of Americans.  Despite all the hype and tactics of political misdirection, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the health care plan advanced by the President and the House leadership will result in the loss of insurance coverage for over 20 million Americans.

That’s right, 20 million Americans will lose their health insurance.

For those Americans, their families and their friends, the consequences will be devastating. 

Let’s look at just one category of patients, those suffering from cancer.  Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act—also known as “Obama Care,” approximately 10 percent of cancer patients were uninsured at the time of diagnosis.  Equally troubling, about one-third of cancer survivors reported a loss of health insurance at some point in time since their diagnosis.

For those individuals and their families, fighting cancer may mean choices that could lead to huge debts under the best of circumstances.  In addition to the physical and emotional toll of battling cancer, families without adequate healthcare coverage can face financial ruin.  According to the federal government, cancer is one of the five most costly medical conditions in the United States, forcing many patients to make decisions about their health based on their personal finances.

While some individuals diagnosed with cancer have meaningful and adequate health insurance to cover most of the costs for treatment, the uninsured and an increasing number of privately insured individuals face the prospect of crippling out-of-pocket costs.  Financial considerations that delay treatment for cancer can mean the difference between life and death.

Of course, the health care plan advanced by the House does not completely turn the clock back to the situation in the United States prior to enactment of the Affordable Care Act, but it will be pretty close.

The Cuomo Administration estimates that the bill approved by the House of Representatives and supported by the President will leave 2.7 million New Yorkers without health care coverage and cost the state $6.9 billion. 

This is all the more troubling as the legislation was rammed through without public hearings and even before the well respected non-partisan Congressional Budget Office could issue its report on the impacts of the plan – both in terms of health insurance coverage and the costs.

So far, this approach of cutting out the public accountability process is being followed in the Senate as well.

What’s the rush?  Why are the President and the Congress so hell-bent on moving legislation?  Because they know that the more the public finds out, the more they will be outraged.  The House bill, for example, was opposed by the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, the American Lung Association, the March of Dimes and the AARP.

And those groups are opposed for good reason -- the reason identified by the Congressional Budget Office: that tens of millions of Americans will lose their health insurance. 

Do the members of Congress who voted for the legislation know what they did?  Of course, they do.  Yet, when challenged as to why they voted the way they did, they will try to change the subject, or focus on some popular aspect of the plan, everything but admit that their vote will lead to the needless suffering and early deaths of many people.

It’s a disgrace.  To put ideology, or partisanship, ahead of the health of people is unconscionable.

Sure, the Affordable Care Act was imperfect, but the rest of the world’s advanced nations have figured out how to ensure that all their people don’t have to worry about paying the bills while being treated for illnesses, injuries, or diseases. 

Thanks to the President and the majority in the House, tens of millions of Americans could soon have those worries.  Hopefully, the moral compass of the Congress will kick in and the final plan will offer more Americans the peace of mind that comes from having healthcare.  

Blair Horner is executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

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