From St. Louis to Seattle, nurses stood up and fought back against the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. We won! Speaker Paul Ryan withdrew the American Health Care Act bill from the House because only 17% of Americans suported the GOP bill, according to latest polls.
That legislation would have stripped at least 24 million Americans of healthcare coverage in the next decade and profoundly set back healthcare in this nation.
If this bill became law it would have taken us back to a time when healthcare was more expensive and barriers were steeper for our patients to receive the care they needed — meaning that patients came into our hospitals sicker and sicker.
Those 24 million losing insurance in the next decade? That was an estimate of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, meaning that a staggering total of 56 million Americans would be uninsured.
Overturning a Death Sentence for Patients
It is without exaggeration to say that this bill would have killed our patients. A 2009 study by Harvard Medical School found that nearly 45,000 annual deaths were associated with lack of health insurance. This appalling conclusion remains unchallenged.
Overall, rural and working class Americans would have seen at least a $1,000 reduction in the current subsidies they receive through Obamacare, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Republican voters would lose at least $5,000 in tax credits under the new plan, especially affecting people in low income and rural communities.
We know that the ACA is not perfect. But we know first hand that the ACA saves lives. We believe Congress should join with us, our allies in the labor movement, public health experts and community advocates to focus on improving upon this system. That is the challenge we must take on now.
Fighting to Protect Patients and Nurses
Earlier this month, I sent a letter to Congress registering our union’s opposition to the AHCA. Across the nation nurses rallied, marched, made calls and sent letters to Congress voicing our opposition to the bill. Here in New York, we joined protests — we even held a die-in in Brooklyn to make graphic the many the deaths that this bill would have caused.
Nurses were key in the fight to defeat this bill
Our rural and urban safety-net hospitals who care for large numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients need more resources, not fewer. That’s why we are continuing to fight for expanded hospital funding and for increased access to care for our most vulnerable patients.
These hospitals are already struggling after losing Disproportionate Share (DSH) funding for caring for high numbers of uninsured, Medicaid, and Medicare patients. This is one of the primary flaws of the ACA — it reduced this essential funding with the expectation that fewer patients would be uninsured.
But the reality is that considerable segments of our population still face barriers to care. And underfunded hospitals is one more barrier that we must fight to improve outcomes for our patients and ensure that we have the resources we need to do our jobs. Advocating for the underserved is a key mission for NYSNA.
Tax cuts for the rich
The AHCA would have taken away healthcare for poor people while giving tax breaks to the rich. Wealthy Americans with incomes of $1 million or more would have seen about $144 billion in tax cuts over the next 10 years, according to a Congressional analysis. By 2020, this would amount to $20 billion a year in cuts for those earning $1 million or more.
Edward D. Kleinbard, former chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, told The New York Times: “Repeal-and-replace is a gigantic transfer of wealth from the lowest-income Americans to the highest-income Americans.”
The fight continues
We know that attacks on the ACA have not concluded. Nurses and our allies must be vigilant and ready to fight back against the next attempt to undermine healthcare access. We must beware of efforts to discourage insurance providers from entering underserved markets. We must call out insurers that violate the law. We must give a high priority to the expansion of Medicaid, which now provides care to almost one in three Americans.
But we will not be satisfied with merely protecting an imperfect law. We will continue the fight to guarantee access to care for all of our patients. And we will continue to advocate for Medicare for All, through the New York Health Act, so that no patient ever goes without care.