Who do you trust with your health care?

by | September 25, 2017 6:37 am

Democratic Dialog – by Debra Wines

Just in case you haven’t noticed, the Senate is once again trying to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Since Donald Trump was inaugurated, the Republicans have promised to actually get rid of the Affordable Care Act, this time with Donald Trump’s blessing. Of course, he did promise Americans, repeatedly during his campaign, he would replace the ACA with something better and less expensive that would cover everyone. Shortly after his inauguration and discussions with Congressional leaders, on the subject of healthcare, Mr. Trump made a public statement regarding healthcare, “Who knew it was so complicated?” I laughed when I heard that statement because I thought he was being facetious. Later, when I heard more of his comments about healthcare, I realized he truly did not understand the health insurance issues facing the majority of Americans. I am beginning to think most of our elected leaders either don’t understand it or they don’t even care. It has become obvious many of them don’t even want to discuss the issues with their constituents.

We’ve seen the news coverage and read the articles about citizens across the country trying to talk to their Senators and Congressmen about healthcare insurance and their inability to even get these elected officials to acknowledge them, let alone listen to their concerns. We have seen a majority of those senators and congressmen go out of their way to avoid their constituents. Various groups of concerned citizens and individuals have called and sent letters, cards, and emails to their elected officials with their concerns over the proposed changes to healthcare coverage. Along with the citizens, organized groups of doctors, hospital administrators, and other medical groups have done the same thing. They have testified and have continuously stated their concerns regarding the various changes being proposed by the majority of Republicans. Yet, it seems with each new proposal from Senator Alexander and his committee, the healthcare coverage being offered to the average American gets worse by eliminating coverage for certain health issues and/or making coverage for the basics more expensive and out of reach for more and more people.

Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) wants to include an amendment that will bar individual states from enacting their own form of single-payer systems. Senator Kennedy stated, “I don’t think states should have the authority to take money from the American taxpayer and set up a single-payer system. Now some people think that that’s inconsistent with the idea of flexibility. But that’s what the United States Congress is for. I very much believe in flexibility, and I know governor’s want flexibility. But it’s our job to make sure that that money is properly spent.” (Quoted from theintercept.com 9/18/2017) This amendment is similar to laws many states have passed that prohibit municipalities from setting their own minimum wages or enacting municipal broadband, which were promoted by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), the policy network funded by large corporations like the Koch Brothers.

This newest proposal, known as the “Graham-Cassidy legislation,” suggests removing the pre-existing condition coverage and limiting the amount of coverage for major illnesses, which were an integral part of the ACA. This would be devastating for many of you, your family members, your friends, and neighbors. The Graham-Cassidy proposal will replace direct federal money with block grants to states for funding health insurance programs for its citizens, as they see fit. It would eliminate ACA subsidies that lowered premiums, deductibles and co-pays by 2020. Lump sums of money would be given to each state on an annual basis, and the states would be given leeway on how to spend the money, except if Senator Kennedy has his way, states could not institute a single-payer program.

That issue is very concerning to me and I am sure many others in Tennessee. In 2014, Gov. Haslam finally came up with a proposal for expanding Medicaid coverage for almost 300,000 Tennesseans who didn’t fit the criteria for ACA coverage but also did not have, or qualify for, health insurance coverage in the state. At that time, Tennessee House Majority Leader Beth Harwell did everything in her power to stop that proposal from getting to the floor for a vote. Instead, she continuously buried it in one committee after another. It did not matter to her how many people she was denying healthcare coverage to, including many veterans. It did not matter how many people demonstrated, wrote letters and emails, and made phone calls; she ignored everyone who was affected by this denial of healthcare. She ignored the people who wanted her to bring the proposal to a vote. She denied the people of Tennessee the right to have their voices heard and acted upon. I am sure many people could have accepted the results of a vote. But her refusal to even hold a vote on the Medicaid expansion was a disgrace and a blatant refusal to honor her commitment, as an elected member of the Tennessee Legislature, to the people of Tennessee.

Now this same woman is running for governor of Tennessee, in the 2018 election. Would you trust her to be fair about block grants to give the people of Tennessee the best healthcare insurance coverage that money can buy? I wouldn’t. The same can be said for Diane Black and Mae Beavers. These candidates, through their actions, do not care about the average Tennessean. They ignore their constituents, unless they are large contributors to their campaigns. They refuse to meet with the average voters in their districts and have no concern or understanding of the 98 percent of the people living in this state.

Senator Kennedy, of Louisiana, should have no fear about most Republican-led states trying to give their citizens single-payer health insurance. That’s too liberal and sounds too much like “socialism.” They seem to prefer “health insurance” that allows people to go bankrupt and die because they can’t afford medical procedures and medication that will keep them or a family member alive. I’m not being overdramatic about this. Read the proposals for yourselves. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet filed their findings on the cost and affect this latest proposal from Graham and Cassidy will have, but the Center for American Progress did an analysis of premiums.

The CAP estimates only addressed yearly premiums for a few segments of the population. They did not include co-pays, deductibles, out-of-pocket expenses, or coverage limits. In their study, using data from Medicare and Medicaid Services, their data showed under the Graham-Cassidy proposal, a healthy 40-year-old person’s average yearly premium would be $6,050. If you happen to have asthma, you would pay approximately $4,340 in addition to the $6,050. A healthy pregnant woman would be charged $17,320 over the $6,050. If you happen to have lung cancer, well the premiums would be over $78,000 a year. I have seen other reports of the premiums covering other medical conditions and they run along the same lines…all of them are out of the reach of the average American and their family if someone gets sick or needs extensive medical care.

I am struck by the irony of the charges for pregnancy. A good many of the current health insurance plans and proposals do not include payment for birth control. The Republicans are hell-bent on dismantling Planned Parenthood. Yet, they continue proposing one healthcare program after another that makes being pregnant so expensive and health insurance for children with any special medical needs or conditions so outrageous that it would make it impossible for the average couple to have children, let alone take care of them. At the same time, the Republicans are telling their voters they are “Pro-Life.” I am beginning to think the real meaning of being “pro-life” has lost something in the translation with the majority of Republican legislators.

I believe we all knew the Affordable Healthcare Act was not perfect and it needed many improvements. What I don’t understand is the obsessive need from the Republican legislators to spend millions trying to repeal and destroy the ACA, instead of using that money to make it work for the majority of American people. Why is it that our country is the only country where American citizens can go bankrupt because of medical bills? Would our legislators let their family members, friends, and neighbors die because they could not afford proper healthcare treatment and medications? I am sure that answer would be “NO!” So, you must ask yourself, why are they willing to let any American citizen do without affordable healthcare?

comments » 1

  1. Comment by Sandra Rice

    September 26, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    A panel on Health Care Reform will be held on Saturday Sept 30 at the Magness Memorial Library in McMinville from 10-11:30. Experts in medicine and health care reform will address the history and future of health care for our country.


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