We Can Stop the GOP’s Dash to Destroy Health Care

Julie Chinitz

Republican leaders in the Senate are hurtling toward a repeal vote that will shred federal protections in the Affordable Care Act, kill the ACA’s subsidies and Medicaid expansion, and suffocate the fifty-year Medicaid program that benefits everyone from newborns to seniors in nursing homes.

That’s the bad news. The good news is we can stop them, if we act now.

This bill is even worse than Jimmy Kimmel is saying, which means there are plenty of reasons for us all to heed his call and tell our senators to vote NO! on Cassidy-Graham.

It’s the most heartless bid to repeal health care we’ve seen from the GOP so far. But it’s not a done deal; there’s still no guarantee they’ll get the fifty votes they need, if we make our voices heard in time.

Here are three more reasons to call your senators.

Cassidy-Graham Gives Insurance Companies a Green Light to Profiteer

The lifting of protections for people with pre-existing conditions you’ve heard about? That would happen through waivers – waivers lifting the ban on lifetime and annual caps, the ban on charging people more based on health status, and the requirement that insurers cover essential health benefits.

On top of that, states could ask for waivers of the ACA requirement that insurers spend a minimum amount of each premium dollar on health care, rather than profit and administrative costs, like executive pay.

More than $2.4 billion has been returned to customers in rebates since that rule came into effect in 2011. Without this requirement, insurance companies could skim more than 20 percent of each premium dollar for profit and overhead.

Don’t think these waivers – any of them – are hypothetical. This health care repeal will throw insurance markets into chaos.

Once that happens, insurance corporations will take their ball and go home, and they’ll use their power and lobbying dollars to demand concessions for coming back into the game. They’re already telling us this is what they plan to do. They’re betting that desperate state lawmakers, seeing they hold all the cards, will fold.

All this has happened before. Take the case of Washington state, where right-wing lawmakers rolled back key pieces of state health reform, the individual market imploded, and insurers demanded permission to reject people with pre-existing conditions before they’d re-enter the market.

The result? Segregation of the sickest into a high-risk pool that came with premiums of up to almost $2,000 a month before the ACA was passed. Many people were shut out when they needed health care the most.

Cassidy-Graham Excludes Immigrants

Our health care laws discriminate against people based on where they were born. If we believe health care is a human right, the distinction between documented and undocumented, or citizen and non-citizen, shouldn’t matter. Everyone should be able to get health care.

That said, it’s not just undocumented people who are excluded from health coverage programs like Medicaid. Many people with legal status – including many green-card holders, or permanent residents – were rendered ineligible for Medicaid by legislation passed in 1996.

The ACA did not fix that discrimination, and most of the restrictions on Medicaid eligibility since 1996 remain in place. However, the ACA’s subsidies for private coverage do not follow the same rules, and subsidies are available to people with legal status even in cases where they’d be shut out of Medicaid. Eliminating these subsidies would strip many immigrants of the only option they have for coverage.

Cassidy-Graham Is Payback for Billionaire Donors

Rich donors have been putting the screws on GOP electeds, demanding “progress” on their priorities of health care repeal and tax cuts. After all, that’s why they gave them money in the first place.

These senators and House members have promised for years to get rid of Obamacare. They are now being told they have to make good on their promise and clear the path for tax cuts to the rich – constituents be damned.

At this point, any GOP electeds who are still holding out or showing signs of having a moral compass are being subjected to incredible arm-twisting by party bosses.

This isn’t a fact about the legislation, but it does help explain why we’re here yet again, pleading for our lives. Let your senators know this kind of payback is absolutely unacceptable.

We Can Still Win

The GOP lawmakers who demand repeal, and the rich donors who back them, don’t seem to mind bulldozing our health care to make way for their tax cuts and market-based dystopia.

In fact, smashing everything to bits is one of their strategies for heading off a public system of health coverage that serves every person in our country.

“Break it now or it will be too late” seems to have become their top marketing pitch.

But it’s not too late. An unprecedented national solidarity has blossomed around the repeal proposal – in opposition to it.

That opposition includes medical and hospital groups. Patient organizations. Republican and Democratic governors. The health secretary for the home state of the bill’s top sponsor. Veterans. People who simply believe every person in our country deserves, and should get, health care. 

Over the next few days, we’re going to fight like hell to keep saving the lives of everyone in our communities. We even stand a chance of winning.

And, no matter the outcome in this round, we’ll keep the fight alive. We’ve seen how many people in our country believe in health care for all, and we know that time – and momentum – are on our side.

So, call, call, call – not just to your senators, but to your representatives in the House, too. (Here’s the number for the Capitol switchboard: (202) 224-3121. But call local offices, too!

Tell your friends to call. Drop in on your electeds’ local offices. Join a protest near you and let lawmakers know we won’t forget, won’t forgive, and above all else, will never give up.

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