Don’t allow yourself to be distracted. While many of us are keeping a close eye on an investigation into alleged connections to Russia by President Donald Trump’s election campaign, there is a far more pressing and consequential story that deserves our attention.
Senate Republicans have released their version of a health care bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act that is projected to result in about 22 million Americans losing their health insurance, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The House version of the bill, the American Health Care Act, narrowly passed on May 4 despite every Democrat and 20 Republicans voting against it.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would postpone a vote in the Senate until after the July 4 recess. This decision was made in response to several Republican Senators announcing lack of support for the proposal.
It is important to note that this is an extremely unpopular bill throughout the country. Recent national polls suggest that fewer than 30 percent of U.S. citizens support the House bill.
Furthermore, credible and mainstream institutions such as the AARP, American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and American Cancer Society, among others, oppose the bill.
This fact is not lost on Senate Republicans who formulated their bill behind closed doors without any plans for a public hearing to discuss its merits. They understand the deep unpopularity of their proposal and have gone to great lengths to essentially bury their heads in the sand.
This is in stark contrast to the Democrats’ and President Barack Obama’s approach to pass Obamacare, which was signed into law just over seven years ago. Numerous public hearings in both chambers of Congress allowed the public access to discussions of the advantages and disadvantages of the most important provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Yet Republicans actually decried Obamacare being “jammed” down Americans’ throats.
Health care may not be a sexy topic that will garner attention when compared to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump administration and campaign. But the potential assault on the improvements that have been made to our health care system will have far more impact on Americans — especially to those with pre-existing medical conditions, those who have gained insurance due to Medicaid expansion and those who have not had to worry about a lifetime cap on insurance benefits.
There are very real costs if the proposed Obamacare replacements were to pass in the Senate and no significant benefits, other than a significant tax break for the wealthiest Americans.
To be fair, there are real problems with Obamacare, but many of these can be solved by making tweaks to the existing law.
For example, more generous subsidies should be provided to those whose incomes are just above the cutoff for Medicaid eligibility, as many of them constitute the remaining uninsured. Additionally, adding a public option, such as the ability to buy into Medicare before the age of 65, would go a long way to expanding choices to areas of the country that have been affected by insurance companies pulling out of the health care exchanges.
As a physician who practices in a hospital and clinic that provide care to many uninsured or underinsured patients, I can attest to the value of affordable, reliable health insurance in providing the opportunity to have access to essential preventive care and necessary diagnostic tests and treatments.
In the current system of U.S. health care, having health insurance is of paramount importance. Any government proposal that reduces the number of citizens who have insurance is one that all health care providers have a duty to oppose.
The hour has come for us to rally in protest, to continue to pressure our Senators and to have our voices heard.
Lawmakers who support the bill should hear our concerns, and those who oppose the bill should be lauded for their ability to stand up for what is right.
Do not let your guard down as the Senate postpones the vote on this bill; keep the pressure up. I just fear that we may have become too distracted by the White House drama.
We must stay focused on the true consequences of this administration’s priorities. Lives are quite literally at stake.
Dr. Jonathan Mizrahi recently concluded his residency in internal medicine at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and will continue his training as a hematology/oncology fellow in July at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.