Thursday, March 9, 2017
Healthcare Workers and Advocates Detail the Damage Republican ACA Replacement Bill Will Inflict in Massachusetts
During an event at Old South Church, workers, consumers and advocates lay out the risks to Massachusetts if Congressional Republicans move forward with their healthcare replacement bill.
BOSTON, MA (March 9, 2017) - Congressional Republicans' attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act - Obamacare - will be disastrous for the mentally ill, women, children, seniors and for those in need of substance abuse care, according to healthcare workers and advocates.
"Don't let anyone tell you that this bill won't hurt us here in Massachusetts," said Tyrék D. Lee, Sr., Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the state's largest healthcare union. "The legislation now being considered is an attack on working people - it will give the richest Americans a massive tax cut by jeopardizing healthcare coverage for the people who need it most and threatening critical jobs in the Commonwealth's largest industry."
"Early this morning, while most of us were still sleeping, the House Republican bill passed its first hurdle by being moved out of the Ways and Means committee," said Hannah Frigand, Associate Director for HelpLine, Enrollment and Education at Health Care For All. "We oppose this plan and any other proposed legislation that will raise healthcare costs and cut access to care for residents in the Commonwealth. This bill is a tax break for the richest and will shift costs to low and middle-income people in the state and across the nation."
The bill set for debate in Congress over the next few days effectively ends Medicaid expansion starting on January 1, 2020, a serious blow to Massachusetts' health reform efforts. That would threaten coverage for over 300,000 Bay State adults currently covered through MassHealth, the state's Medicaid program. The GOP legislative proposal also institutes per capita caps and restricts the amount of funding available for care. This radical change to Medicaid's structure would ration care, shift massive costs to an already strained state budget and threaten coverage and benefits for 650,000 Massachusetts children, 170,000 seniors and 280,000 people with disabilities.
The proposal will drive up out-of-pocket expenses for those who can least afford them and increase costs for many privately insured individuals due to the reduction of tax credits and the elimination of cost-sharing assistance. Over 190,000 people in Massachusetts currently receive federal tax credits to help them afford health insurance.
"This plan disregards the right of poor people to access care they can afford, while slanderously claiming that if they lose coverage it will be because of irresponsible spending," said Rev. John Edgerton, Associate Minister of Old South Church and a member of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization. "If this plan is passed, it will ruin people financially. But worse than that, people who might have remained healthy will get sick. People who might have survived will die."
The diverse coalition of advocates that gathered at Old South Church included healthcare providers, workers, consumers and faith leaders -- many of whom were integral to the passage of the Commonwealth's groundbreaking 2006 health reform law. The individuals, representing nearly a dozen groups, showed a unified face in opposition to the GOP plan.
Speakers said the Republican legislation guts care provided under the ACA and pushes massive new costs onto states - while providing tax cuts for the rich. It could also have far reaching negative impacts on Massachusetts' health providers and healthcare jobs.
"In my experience as a physician, no federal policy has had as positive an impact on my patients as the Affordable Care Act," said James S. Gessner, MD, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society. "Thanks to the ACA, more families here in the Commonwealth have been able to acquire health insurance, and more patients have finally had peace of mind about their ability to get the medical care that they need. This bill to replace the ACA will ensure that patients fall through the cracks - patients who are among the most vulnerable. This is not what our patients need, and it's not what our health system needs."
"One of the most important benefits of the ACA has been its ability to expand coverage and access to care for those battling opioids and other substance abuse issues," said Elizabeth Mooney, Southeast and Metrowest Regional Coordinator for the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery (MOAR). "If this bill proposed by Congressional Republicans passes, many of these vital services will be ripped away - severely exacerbating this crisis that is taking too many lives in Massachusetts and around the country."
Repealing the ACA and defunding Planned Parenthood will disproportionately hurt people with low incomes, people of color, and people in rural areas who already face too many barriers to care.
"This dangerous proposal will block millions of women, men and young people from basic preventive care like cancer screenings, birth control, pap tests, and STD testing and treatment. One in five women in America has relied on Planned Parenthood, and their health care shouldn't get caught up in extreme political agendas," said Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.
During the event, speakers also laid out a series of priorities and actions that will take place in the coming days and weeks to fight the bill. Speakers encouraged Massachusetts residents to call Governor Charlie Baker and the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to urge them to continue advocating to protect critical health care programs, including Medicaid. Residents can also join a team of ACA Defenders to call voters in swing Congressional districts and mobilize them to call their own representatives in Congress with their concerns.