On the very first day of the new Congress, right-wing leaders in the Senate introduced a budget resolution to begin taking away our health care by eliminating the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Now more than ever, concerned community members and principled elected officials must fight back, not look for small concessions. Too many lives are at stake.
In Washington state, more than 775,000 people could lose their health care.
That’s 775,000 of our friends, family and neighbors who’d be left with nothing. No check-ups or diagnostic tests. No cancer treatments. No heart medication or asthma inhalers.
The introduction of this budget resolution is just the start. With a vote expected in January, we’re seeing the right wing move to dismantle health care for all of us, piece by piece.
In addition to destroying the ACA, conservatives want to turn Medicare into a voucher program that funnels our health care dollars into insurance corporation profiteering. They want to slash Medicaid, which covers 1.79 million Washingtonians, including many people receiving nursing home care. They want to hike drug prices for seniors.
We could also be going back to the days when insurance companies could reject you or jack up your premiums for having a pre-existing condition.
Our experience in Washington shows we can do better. After passage of the ACA, we provided health coverage to more than three-quarters of a million Washingtonians. We added 51,000 jobs and cut uncompensated care almost in half. We made our hospitals and clinics stronger. During this last enrollment period, 27,000 more Washingtonians have signed up for coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder, up 13 percent from the previous year.
We accomplished this because community leaders across the state raised their voices and said everyone in Washington — absolutely everyone — should get health care. Elected officials listened and acted. That hasn’t been the case in many states, where lawmakers put insurance corporations above people.
It’s true that we need to do more. In Washington, about 6 percent of us remain uninsured, and many insurance plans come with high deductibles and are too expensive. Insurance corporations still have a big hand in our health care system to profit when we get sick.
A plan such as Medicare-for-All would do a better job getting us good health care without the confusion, cost and hassle of dealing with multiple insurance corporations.
These are the kinds of changes that we should be making in order to build on what we have learned and provide more and better coverage to all Americans. Instead, conservatives in Congress are planning to repeal ACA with no better replacement. Any plan they have discussed includes giveaways to insurance companies while they gut our health care, hospitals and clinics — and state budgets.
One Trump voter — a woman whose husband uses ACA coverage — recently told a Vox reporter, “I guess I always just thought that it would be there. I was thinking that once it was made into a law that it could not be changed.”
She’s not alone. Speaking to Kaiser Foundation researchers, Trump voters expressed fear over the possibility of losing their health care. They are “worried about what they called ‘chaos’ if there was a gap between repealing and replacing Obamacare.”
But the ACA can be taken away. Already conservatives are moving to do just that.
We need to defend health care for everyone, no matter how they’re covered and no matter who they voted for. We need to stop the conservative plan in its tracks.
On Jan. 15, we cosponsored a national day of action to save health care, joining Congress members and coalitions across the country. Our defense of health care now is a test of our resolve and our commitment to each other. A country that values its people doesn’t take away their health care.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal represents Washington’s 7th Congressional district, which includes Seattle, Vashon Island and portions of Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace, Burien and Normandy Park. LeeAnn Hall is co-director of People’s Action Institute and served on the executive committee of Health Care for America Now.