Repealing The Affordable Care Act Could Slash Medicaid Coverage For Over 13 Million Children

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
repealing the affordable care act
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By now, you’ve probably heard the news that the Senate is looking to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, pretty much as soon as they possibly can.

Criticize the Affordable Care Act all you want, but the fact is that about 20 million people get their insurance through it, and if it’s repealed without a viable replacement, those Americans will be left without a plan. Many are concerned that they won’t be able to afford insurance if it’s repealed, or that the removal of the “pre-existing conditions” clause will make them ineligible to receive health insurance at all.

For some, the removal of the ACA would mean losing the ability to afford health coverage that could literally save their lives.

But many are also concerned that repealing the ACA will affect those beyond the Americans who receive their insurance directly through ACA. Unfortunately, they have reason to be concerned. The ACA affects more than just what health care plan you are eligible for. For example, it is estimated that millions of Americans might be out of work as a result of the appeal. And benefits like women’s access to birth control and lactation support might very well be affected as well.

But what you might not know is that repealing the ACA may leave millions of poor and underprivileged children without health insurance — and that is not something to gloss over or look away from for one second.

According to Forbes, the ACA expanded coverage to many families who would have not otherwise been eligible for Medicaid — and as many as 13 million children could lose their insurance if it is repealed. When the law was signed six years ago by Obama, millions of American who had previously not qualified for Medicaid became eligible, thanks to an expansion of federal funding as mandated in the ACA. Thirty-one states, including the District of Columbia reaped the benefits of this expansion.

The Urban Institute’s Health Policy center released a report about this in December 2016, outlining in detail how these families would be affected by the repeal: “We find that 4.4 million children and 7.6 million parents could lose coverage in 2019 if Congress’s budget reconciliation process repeals pieces of the ACA without a replacement plan,” write the researchers.

None of us should take this news lightly. If you have had the privilege never to worry about health insurance for your children, good on you, but you absolutely never know when your family might need something like what is offered to millions of children through a program like Medicaid.

My family is one such example. When my husband was suddenly laid off from his job in 2012 — the one that provided us with health insurance — I was in a panic. I was a few months pregnant with our second child, and I had a 5-year-old who had asthma and needed refills of his medication. I didn’t know how on earth our family would get by without health insurance, and there was no way we could afford to buy health insurance or cover our medical expenses ourselves.

It took a million phone calls and some bureaucratic red tape, but we qualified for Medicaid for that year, even though my husband was working part-time as a substitute teacher (while going on job interviews for full-time positions). My son continued to receive his asthma meds, vaccinations, and sick visits to the doctor, and my prenatal visits and birth were fully covered. After my baby was born, his pediatric care was covered as well.

My husband eventually found a new job with health insurance, and we stopped using our Medicaid coverage, but I am eternally grateful that it was there for us in our time of need. I have no clue what I would have done if our family had not qualified for Medicaid — if for example, my husband’s meager salary made us ineligible for the coverage.

I can’t imagine what it would be like if my child and unborn baby were denied this coverage. If our country can’t take care of its most vulnerable people, then what kind of country are we? How can we call ourselves a democracy or a republic?

The ACA hasn’t been repealed as of yet. There is still time to urge your policymakers to halt the repeal — or at least to come up with a replacement plan pronto.

This link will tell you how you can get in touch with your senators, who will likely be voting on whether to repeal the ACA in the coming weeks. Even if you live in a state with senators who already support the ACA, you can call out-of-state senators, who may not be fully supportive of it, to make your opinion known.

Your “call script” is simple: “Hello! I am concerned about the women, men, and children who might lose life-saving health insurance as a result of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. I urge you to halt the repeal or come up with a viable alternative that addresses the many benefits cutting the ACA would slash. Thank you!”

You can literally just read this script word for word. Don’t worry if you sound silly, stumble over your words, or if your toddler is screaming from the other room that his butt needs wiping. Just do it.

This is an issue that affects all Americans, and we all have an obligation to pump our fists, make our voices heard, and get this done.

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