Why You Should Defend Obamacare Right Now (Even If You Hate It)

by Jessica Smock
Astrid Riecken / Stringer / Getty Images

If you hate health care in this country right now, I get that and I’m with you. If you hate Obamacare because it hasn’t done enough to solve many of our nation’s or your own family’s health care problems, and maybe added some new ones, I get that too. (I’ll leave the question of whether or not Democrats or Republicans are to blame for Obamacare’s challenges for another day, as well as the fact that the system set up by Obamacare was originally a Republican idea.)

Health care in this country just sucks, especially in comparison to every single other developed country in the world. Compared to other countries, we pay more; we get worse health care outcomes; our children and other mothers are less healthy (we rank last out of 61 developed countries in maternal health); and we often go bankrupt because of health care bills (62% of all bankruptcies in the U.S. are caused by medical expenses).

We need solutions to high prices and bad outcomes. We need it done yesterday.

But here’s the thing: The Senate bill finally introduced this week (after weeks of secret negotiations between 13 male senators, no debate, no process of adding amendments by other senators, no public comment, and little input from health care stakeholders) does nothing to solve any of these issues. It does nothing to make Obamacare better. It does nothing to improve health care.

If you hate the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), then you should hate this bill so much more.

Here’s what it does do:

– It may cause millions of Americans (especially the most vulnerable) to lose their healthcare coverage.

– It will increase the cost of health care premiums and copays for those privately buying insurance.

– With the assistance of Harvard researchers, the Center for American Progress estimates that this Senate bill will result in between 18,100 and 27,700 additional American deaths due to loss of coverage.

– It will cut subsidies that help low- and middle-income Americans purchase health insurance.

– It will lead to an explosion in costs for older Americans. It will eliminate the requirement that older Americans can’t be charged more than three times more than younger people by insurers.

– It strips funding to Planned Parenthood for one year. It would also block Medicaid patients from getting contraception, STD testing, and other services from Planned Parenthood. (Those receiving Medicaid are already prevented from receiving abortions.)

– It will cause millions of Americans to lose their Medicaid coverage.

I want to emphasize the last point: The bill’s devastating impact on Medicaid. The bill would gut funding for the 20% of Americans who currently rely on Medicaid. This would include a $800 billion decrease in funding over a decade.

Who would this slashing of Medicaid affect? According to the New York Times, currently nearly half of all births are paid for by Medicaid, and about 40% of children and 76% of poor children are covered by the program. These cuts could also impact 60% of children with disabilities, especially those who need services that their insurance companies won’t cover.

Cuts to Medicaid will also hurt the fight against the growing crisis of addiction, particularly opioid addiction. Ohio senator Sherrod Brown in a statement said that this Senate healthcare bill “takes away the number one tool we have in the fight against opioids — Medicaid treatment.” Medicaid is the most important payer of addiction treatment. The Senate bill provides for just $2 billion for substance abuse treatment, a total much less than most experts state would be needed to make a difference in this crisis. For instance, Ohio — just one state — spent almost a billion dollars on addiction treatment last year, 70% of which was covered by Medicaid.

Where will all this savings — the hundreds of millions of dollars that the federal government would supposedly save if this bill is passed and health care coverage for Americans is reduced — go? What would the Trump administration like to do with this money?

Here’s the kicker, folks: It would go straight to the bank accounts of the wealthiest Americans.

What do massive tax cuts for high-income Americans — particularly those with investment income — have to do with health care? Nothing.

And even if you hate Obamacare and voted for Trump — especially if you voted for Trump — this hypocrisy should make you furious. Because Trump promised that he wouldn’t touch Medicaid.

During the campaign, Trump pledged to his voters and all Americans that he would never do anything to cut Medicaid. This health care bill explicitly contradicts those promises.

In 2015, he stated: “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid. Every other Republican is going to cut, and even if they wouldn’t, they don’t know what to do because they don’t know where the money is. I do.”

More families not covered by health insurance, increased health care costs, poorer quality insurance for millions of Americans, reduced addiction treatment coverage — these are not things that most Americans, including Republicans, want.

The fight against this bill is not about whether you thought the Affordable Care Act was a perfect law (nobody does) or whether you blame it for your family’s health care challenges.

This fight is about what we as a nation value: tax cuts for those who don’t need them or caring for our nation’s most vulnerable, particularly mothers, children, and the poor. The Republicans are rushing to vote on the bill next week, before the July 4 recess.

Contact your senator today — call, email, tweet, message — and tell them that you think American families deserve better.