The harshest impacts of the GOP’s Obamacare repeal legislation will be felt by those Americans who are already the most vulnerable.
Individuals and families who need maternity care, emergency services, or mental health care treatment will no longer have those services guaranteed. Twenty million Americans who rely on the Medicaid services they receive under Obamacare risk returning to the frightened lives they led in the past.
I know what that’s like, having spent most of my life as an uninsured man. I remember when health care services and the ability to obtain prescription drugs depended primarily on state funding and state law. Some states provided low income service; some provided minimal services, or none.
But then, under Obamacare, 22 states expanded access to Medicaid. Since 2012, I have been enrolled in a Medicaid plan that has provided quick access to check-ups, prescription drugs and cancer treatment (which I need).
The thought of going back? It’s unimaginable. I am among the 20 million Americans who are scared - and for good reason.
Three weeks after the presidential election, I met with my care coordinator, Lois, who works for UnitedHealthcare, my Medicaid provider.
I have a history of extraordinarily high blood pressure and issues with kidney and prostate cancer. Lois checks in every three or four months to see if I have been taking my medications and if I have any new health issues. She appraises how she can help.
Lois’s job is to provide preventive care and give people like me some sense of confidence and normalcy with regard to our health issues. Her position was created by Obamacare, which has pioneered a more holistic approach to health.
During a recent check-in, Lois went through her usual questionnaire. “Have you been having mobility issues?” “Have you been anxious, or stressed?” Usually I answer with a nonchalant “nope.” But this time, I blurted out, “So this is all going to end soon, I guess.”
Lois’s expression was overtaken with worry. “I just can’t believe that could happen,” she told me. “He can’t leave 20 million people without health care. He can’t.”
Now it looks as though the answer to that question is, “Yes, he can.”
In early May, the House passed an Obamacare repeal bill, which polls showed is hugely unpopular. Even President Donald Trump eventually acknowledged that the bill, shepherded through by Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, was “mean.”
GOP Senators promised a better bill and hammered one out in secret. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said the Republicans kept their bill “under the cover of darkness because they’re ashamed of it, plain and simple.”
And no wonder. The version, as we all now know, includes no substantial improvements on the House bill.
Twenty-two million low-income Americans who received care during the Obama years have been returned to a situation of fear and insecurity. The Republicans have seemed unmoved by appeals to their sense of decency. We cannot allow this to stand.
Darryl Lorenzo Wellington is a poet and essayist living in Santa Fe, N.M. He wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine.