In 1961, the Republican Party’s standard bearer Ronald Reagan said that no one should go without healthcare for lack of funds.
Fast forward to 2017 and his self-described acolytes are threatening the health and well-being of millions of Americans.
If Reagan were alive today, I daresay he would agree with the not-so Grand Old Party’s new leader, President Donald J. Trump, that much like the House’s American Health Care Act, the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act is both mean and lacks heart.
The Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, the same year that I was elected to Congress. Since then, my constituents have shared with me innumerable stories about how they or someone they know has greatly benefited from this landmark healthcare law. Lately, they worry that if the law is repealed they won’t be able to afford preventive-care doctor’s visits, manage a child’s pre-existing condition, or care for an aging parent.
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Sadly, in many cases, they’re right.
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the Senate’s TrumpCare bill would increase premiums in our state by an average of $734; more than 825,300 hardworking Floridians would lose private coverage; and the cost of uncompensated care to our hospitals would increase by $742,777,597.
Nationwide, 22 million Americans will lose health coverage, including 18 million in the next year. More than 5 million people who purchase their coverage in the marketplace will pay higher deductibles and costs; 500,000 members of the middle class will lose the tax credits they depend on to help pay their premiums, which may force them to drop coverage, while up to 27 million people who are covered through their employers could face the kind of annual and lifetime limits that in the past have caused financial ruin.
It would be more accurate, and certainly more honest, to rename the Senate’s measure the Everybody Gets Hurt Act of 2017 because everybody does — except, of course, the wealthy and big corporations that will receive more than a half-trillion dollars in tax cuts.
It is the epitome of hubris for Republican lawmakers to push legislation that will diminish or eliminate so many Americans’ access to quality, affordable care, forcing them to pay more for less, and taking from the poor to give to the rich.
Democrats, including former President Obama, have always conceded that the Affordable Care Act, which extended coverage to 20 million people, is imperfect. Work with us, we have implored Republican colleagues, to improve and strengthen the bill so that even more Americans will be able to access quality, affordable health insurance. Those pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
Republicans will not be able to ignore the voices of the Americans who have so much to lose if the GOP proposals become law. They will have to answer to the people who lose their jobs, life savings, or homes to care for a sick child or aging parent; to those who depend on Medicaid for their healthcare needs; and to the Americans and their loved ones who are struggling with the opioid epidemic that is growing at a frighteningly rapid pace.
Our constituents send us to Washington because of our deep commitment to public service and to help improve the lives of others. Most of us are not physicians but we all are still beholden to the mandate to “first do no harm.” The Better Care Reconciliation Act not only is harmful, for millions of Americans it may be catastrophically so.
U.S. Rep. Frederica S. Wilson represents Florida’s 24th District.