By Thomas Kennedy
I know what lack of health care can do to a family in need. About two years ago, my undocumented father was suffering from a form of degenerative arthritis which almost took away his ability to walk. This was a very traumatizing time for all of us, my dad, my mother and me. We had a hard time paying for the care my dad needed. The financial stress and emotional toll was so great, it nearly pushed my parents to separate after more than 20 years of marriage.
We pulled through thanks to the generosity of our community and family and friends, who helped us fund raise $15,000 to help my father get the hip replacement he needed in order to work and sustain himself. Millions of Americans with the same or worse type of conditions who have not been so lucky found salvation with the Affordable Care Act passed under President Obama. The ACA has given those Americans in need an opportunity to get the healthcare they desperately need.
Yet their care is under threat by the Republican Party’s efforts to repeal it.
The GOP is attempting to conduct highway robbery against the American people. The ACA extended health care coverage to about 20 million people and reduced the national uninsured to rate to the lowest ever recorded. Although Donald Trump has repeatedly promised that the Republican alternative would provide universal coverage and lower prices for Americans, the bill proposed by the GOP, called the American Healthcare Act, threatens to leave 24 million people without coverage.
The repeal plan proposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan would also do away with financial assistance to lower income households and slew of consumer protections that among other things, eliminated lifetime limits on policies, capped out-of-pocket spending and penalized employers who did not offer full-time employees health care within three months. Instead of looking out for the most vulnerable Americans, the GOP-led plan would offer massive tax cuts to the rich and corporations. All at the expense of the working class.
Make no mistake, the repeal plan is nothing more than the GOP stealing from the poor to give to the rich. The true purpose for the American Healthcare Act seems to be to institute a $600 billion tax cut for the wealthiest of Americans. The Affordable Care Act was in part funded by taxes on families making more than $250,000 as well as other taxes on investment income. Those taxes brought about $27 billion dollars last year, but if repealed we would lose about $275 billion in tax dollars over the next decade.
The repeal would also eliminate the ACA’s cap that only allowed insurance companies to deduct $500,000 from executive salaries. The replacement plan wants to give insurance companies like Cigna and Aetna, who pay their CEOs tens of millions of dollars in earnings, new tax savings.
The picture is clear: The GOP seeks to give that money to the wealthiest in our society on the backs of those of us in the working class. The Republican Party consistently seeks to partner with special interests who do not have the interest of our families in mind.
This bill is so bad that there is serious dissent even within Republican ranks. Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton urged his colleagues in the House of Representatives not to “walk the plank” by voting in favor of the repeal bill, saying that it would put Republican seats under threat in the 2018 midterm elections.
For once in my life, I would have to agree with Senator Cotton. Millions of Americans lives, some who unwisely voted for Trump, depend on their access to healthcare and they won’t tolerate it being taken away so a bunch of Washington D.C. Republicans can please their greedy donors.
As someone whose family was directly affected by the lack of access to healthcare I understand their fear and anger. My dad’s health fight had a lasting impact on me that is seared in my memory.
The GOP needs to keep its hands off our health care. It is a lesson new voters like me would be more than happy to teach Republican lawmakers at the ballot box in 2018.
Thomas Kennedy is a writing fellow for the Center for Community Change Action.
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