For the past nine months, the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress have been fixated on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, taking health care away from millions of Americans, thousands of Georgians, and our most vulnerable neighbors and friends.
This month, President Trump abandoned the legislative process and signed two executive orders that will dismantle and unravel the Affordable Care Act. President Trump traded repeal and replace for sabotage and destruction. From Trump’s own mouth: “Obamacare is finished. It’s dead. It’s gone.”
The first executive order allows for the sale of low-quality insurance plans – ones no longer held to the high standards of the Affordable Care Act. These plans are not required to cover pre-existing conditions or other benefits like maternal health, hospitalization, and preventative care. One month ago, insurance like this would not have even qualified as health care.
Since passage of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has been making scheduled payments to insurance companies so they can offer plans to low- and middle-income Americans at cheaper rates. The second executive order cancelled these subsidies, which will force insurance companies to charge more and price many families out of their current plans.
Young, healthy Americans may look at their new choices and select a newly offered, less-expensive option. However, as waves of healthy individuals leave the exchanges, those remaining will see their premiums skyrocket.
This will create two separate insurance markets, where those with pre-existing conditions are forced to stay in plans with rising costs while others can opt out for cheap but hollow plans. This is not only an immoral division of society, but it undermines the basic idea that all Americans have the right to accessible health care.
More than 400,000 Georgians, including 65,000 children, purchased high-quality marketplace coverage under the Affordable Care Act and now stand to lose it. There are 1.7 million Georgians with pre-existing conditions who are guaranteed nondiscriminatory coverage and now face uncertainty, and 4 million Georgians who rely on coverage for preventative services who could lose this benefit. The impact of these executive orders on women, low-income families, and our disabled and elderly friends cannot be understated.
I’m also concerned about the repercussions for minority communities. Nationwide, the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid cut the number of uninsured young and middle-aged African Americans by one-third from 2013 to 2016. This legislation is proven to lessen health care disparities, and Georgia should be expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act rather than cutting or rolling back these programs. Insurance coverage should not be determined by race, and these executive orders threaten the progress we have made in minimizing disparities. The Affordable Care Act was the greatest effort to close the health gap in the past 60 years. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, young African Americans are more prone to high blood pressure, diabetes and strokes. These diseases require preventative care, an essential health care benefit that the Affordable Care Act guaranteed but new plans will no longer be required to offer.
President Trump’s executive orders beg the question: Does President Trump not know how many Americans will be harmed by these executive orders or does he simply not care?
With open enrollment for health care policies beginning Nov. 1, the Trump administration is counting on us being confused, complacent, and tired of civic action around this action. Let’s prove them wrong.
The Affordable Care Act is not perfect, but we must protect its core consumer protections until Republican leadership commits to bipartisan health care reform. I urge you to keep fighting and let Congress hear what kind of health care works for you. Stand with me and your fellow Georgians to demand non-discriminatory, affordable coverage for all.
U.S. Rep.Hank Johnson represents Georgia’s 4th Congressional District. He is serving his sixth term in the U.S. House of Representatives and is a member of the House Judiciary and Transportation & Infrastructure committees. He lives in Lithonia.