They tossed around high-fives and drank beer – the House Republicans who celebrated with the president because they had just managed to pass a bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and slash Medicaid, ending health coverage for 27 million people — zeroing in on the working poor, people with chronic conditions and cancer, and older adults. The House bill would greatly limit health benefits for those in need to provide for astronomical tax breaks to the wealthiest .0001% of Americans. It is a sad day when our elected officials are toasting actions like these.
As NHeLP DC Managing Attorney Mara Youdelman said in our statement issued following the House’s passage of its so-called American Health Care Act (AHCA), the bill is “a deeply flawed measure that disproportionately harms the most vulnerable among us to pay for policies that coddle the wealthy and big business.”
Below the radar during all this activity was Medicaid—the program that provides needed care to more than 70 million people. The House bill takes at least $840 billion from Medicaid funding, a move that, as Youdelman noted, would “decimate a program vital to the health of women, people of color, people living with disabilities, people living with pre-existing conditions, and people seeking care for substance use disorders.” According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities‘ Chye-Ching Huang, the House’s AHCA tax breaks will help facilitate even “deeper tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations in the subsequent tax legislation.”
So, what now? Can this madness be stopped? Possibly, but only with smart, sustained resistance.
The focus will now turn to the Senate. What is needed there is resistance to mean-spirited, regressive legislation. This is not what the country clamored for during the last general elections. From day one of the Affordable Care Act, conservative activists have been working to kill the ACA, and they are powerful. But in our democracy, we must and can do better, which means reining in the demands of the far-right and politically powerful.
In the coming days, NHeLP among many other legal and public interest organizations, health care advocates, health care providers, hospitals, and people who care about their health care will work to ensure that senators understand the vital interests at stake. The House bill cannot be allowed to stand or move forward, as it is destructive to this country and harmful to all individuals and families.
That said, the efforts to save our health care system reach beyond the halls of Congress.
We must also ensure that the Trump administration’s efforts to allow states to undermine Medicaid are thwarted. Already, the administration has signaled its plans to allow states to ignore provisions of the Medicaid Act in ways that will limit the reach and scope of the Medicaid program, thereby throwing many low-income individuals and people with disabilities into peril.
That is why NHeLP’s legal team is working to help health advocates across the country understand Medicaid law and the limits on the administration’s power. In a recent “quick review,” Legal Director Jane Perkins, Senior Attorney Catherine McKee and Youdelman cover highlights of how transparency and public comment are required for states’ requests to alter their Medicaid programs. The paper also outlines steps that advocates can take to participate in the process and help ensure that states and CMS [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] consider how waiver requests would affect Medicaid beneficiaries.
As we justifiably fight to stop destructive and harmful policies from becoming law, we must also aggressively challenge the administration’s efforts to dismantle Medicaid and to act beyond the bounds of the law.