Frontline healthcare workers in South Florida are performing their jobs in fear. Doctors, nurses, nursing-home staff and other dedicated caregivers are in distress over the GOP’s healthcare plan that will make Miami Ground Zero for lost coverage and Trumpcare tragedy.
In particular, the proposed $800 billion Medicaid cut will deliver special pain to local seniors, children, disabled, veterans, and many others. In Florida, almost 4 million residents are enrolled in Medicaid, 60 percent of whom are children. More than 60 percent of long-term care and nursing-home costs are covered by the program; and 675,000 elderly Floridians rely on Medicaid supplements to their Medicare coverage.
Our medical community is especially galled that care for these Floridians would be slashed in favor of tax cuts for the rich and to score petty political points for GOP party leaders.
Republicans in the state Legislature already have turned down $15 billion in federal Medicaid funding since 2014 that would insure 800,000 additional working-class Floridians (the majority in South Florida), and now national GOP lawmakers want to cut deeper, even in their own districts.
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U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart supported the House plan to take away health coverage or make it impossibly expensive for an estimated 600,000 of their own Miami constituents.
So far, Sen. Marco Rubio has ducked a definitive answer about his support of the Senate version of Trumpcare. Ominously, the local Republican has ultimately aligned his votes with the Trump administration no matter his previous rhetoric; and Rubio is dodging contact with voters. Health workers have gathered repeatedly at Rubio’s offices to discuss the terrible ramifications of the GOP proposal, but Rubio has not appeared.
Maybe he doesn’t want to hear what caregivers know and dread:
▪ Local emergency rooms once again will overflow with crowds who can’t afford insurance for even the most basic care.
▪ Health workers will listen to families desperate over the choice of paying for a child’s prescriptions vs. food and rent, and console loved ones of patients who died from conditions deemed too costly to treat.
▪ Nursing-home workers will agonize with families struggling to keep aging parents in dignified comfort and care.
▪ Veterans, who made grave sacrifices for this nation, will have to beg for fundamental services.
Overall, the Republican bill would eliminate health coverage for 22 million Americans. Even comfortably middle-class citizens with good jobs and employer-provided health plans should worry. Provisions in Trumpcare threaten coverage and/or cost of these policies to fund massive tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest.
That’s such a glaring injustice every important health organization has stoutly opposed this Republican bill, including the American Medical Association, American Association of Retired People, American Hospital Association, American Nurses Association, March of Dimes, American Cancer Society, and many more.
These experts recognize what South Florida caregivers grimly fear. Cuts to coverage and crucial health programs will result in countless tragedies for our friends and families. Health workers — caring for the young, old, disabled, and/or decorated — fervently believe that the discussion should not be about deeper cuts. Instead, they believe Medicaid and other programs that truly serve the well-being of the public should be improved, increased and expanded.
Monica Russo is executive vice president of Miramar-based 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest healthcare union in Florida.