Concessions And Cruelty: The GOP's Fight To Cut Care

Republicans scrambled late Monday night to release a revised draft of the disastrous American Health Care Act, just days before it’s scheduled to head to the House floor for a vote. Don’t be fooled: the concessions being made by House Speaker Paul Ryan in order to save the bill from his own party’s holdouts don’t address the core problems created by the first draft. In fact, the amendments would leave Americans worse off than before.

In addition to throwing more than 24 million Americans off of their health insurance and accelerating the repeal of tax increases for top earners and the medical industry, Republicans have now amended this bill to further reduce federal support of Medicaid and allow states to add work requirements to the program.

As the president and CEO of the largest health care provider in the largest area of contiguous poverty in the continental United States, I know what that could mean for families. St. John’s Well Child and Family Center provides health care to close to 100,000 individuals, who received more than 350,000 medical, dental and mental health visits last year alone. More than 30,000 of those individuals received health insurance for the first time because of the Affordable Care Act. In South Los Angeles ― more than 50 percent of the population is insured through Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid. That makes this fight personal. These changes are only going to make things worse.

First, the addition of work requirements presents us with a chicken-egg scenario. You must be healthy to work. A work requirement could prevent you from getting the health care you need in order to be able to work. Second, Republicans fail to mention that, among those who could gain Medicaid coverage who were not working: 29 percent reported that they were taking care of home or family, 18 percent were in school, 17 percent were ill or disabled, 10 percent were retired, and 20 percent reported they were looking for work. Will we see a companion bill mandating states with work requirements include a budget for job training and employment services?

On average, polls show a dismal 30 percent approval rating for Trumpcare among voters. Bottom line: even after Americans made it clear that the American Health Care Act is a nonstarter Republicans are doubling down and trying to make it even harder for Americans to see their doctor.

With Republicans moving forward, it’s a very real possibility that ― in a cruel and morbid piece of political irony ― the American Health Care Act could pass this Thursday, on the 7th anniversary of Obamacare’s passage.

So, what can we do? First, we must recognize that health is a fundamental human right and view health care access as a catalyst for social, racial, and economic justice. We must stand together to resist this flagrant attack on our nation’s most vulnerable. While Congress moves to repeal, America must march. This Thursday, St. John’s Well Child and Family Center is partnering with over 70 organizations, unions, and businesses and thousands of doctors, patients, and families to march in downtown Los Angeles to save Obamacare. We ask you to join us. The real work starts with protecting our families, friends, and neighbors.