Letter from HF President: The Health Of Our Nation
Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. So goes the old saying in American politics. And if we needed more proof of that truism of American politics we need only look at the attempts by Republicans in Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Republicans in Congress have spent nearly a decade highlighting the shortcomings of the ACA while ignoring its achievements. Now that they control the Congress, the Senate and the White House, they’re solution is the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Under the guise of fixing Obamacare’s problems and giving consumers more health care choices, President Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress drafted a plan that eliminated many of the most important provisions of the ACA, provided significant tax breaks to the richest Americans, and would have left 58 million Americans uninsured by 2028.
Thanks in part to the ideological civil war taking place within the Grand Old Party, the AHCA never made it to a vote. For now, Obamacare remains the law of the land. For now.
That’s good news for Latinos. The changes proposed by the Congress and White House would have weighed heavily on our communities. Under ACA, Latino insurance enrollment has soared; with some 4.2 million Latinos gaining access to affordable insurance to protect their families. The rate of Latinos who are uninsured in the United States dropped from 43 percent in 2010 to 25 percent in 2016. That has meant fewer costly emergency room visits, increased use of preventative care, and access to reproductive health care. In all, few communities have benefitted more from the ACA than Latinos and few will suffer as much with its repeal.
President Trump and the House majority proposed punitive legislation masquerading as choice. They argued that they wanted to make health care more accessible. The truth is that their proposal actually did the opposite. Not only would consumers have fewer choices, in many cases they would have lacked the means to pay for health insurance at all. Their bill reduced incentives for healthy Americans to buy insurance and thus undercut the core principle of diffusing risk. For many working-class Latinos, the ACHA would have made insurance all but impossible to afford.
And what of poor Latinos, you ask? They would have been among the most affected by the AHCA. Many poor Latinos families depend on Medicaid. Under the ACA, Medicaid’s expansion allowed many working poor to secure insurance. Under the AHCA, expansion would have been rolled back. What’s more, in addition to making fewer Latinos eligible for Medicaid, the program would have suffered cuts of upwards of $300 billion.
So, yes, we dodged a bullet this past week. But rest assured that this isn’t the end of the fight for accessible and affordable health care. We must work harder than ever to improve the ACA and to protect it. That means organizing and speaking out so that everyone in Congress understands that we won’t go back to the days of millions of uninsured Americans being crippled by health care expenses.
Healthcare is a right for all Americans, not just the privileged few. And as much as President Trump and House Speaker Ryan insisted that the AHCA increased “access,” their proposals would have produced a health care system that was so unaffordable as to be inaccessible to most Americans. We deserve better.