Commentary: Get the Facts About the End of Medicaid and Medicare as We Know It

Commentary: Get the Facts About the End of Medicaid and Medicare as We Know It

Certain members of Congress want to repeal the Affordable Care Act and end Medicaid and Medicare as we know it.

Published April 5, 2012

Tee McClenty, medical technician and executive vice president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, has seen the value of the Affordable Care Act firsthand. Her son is one of those 2.5 million young adults who gained coverage under the law. On a recent blog post, she remembered when her 19-year-old son was dropped from her family’s insurance policy because he was no longer a full-time student.

She said: "I felt like I'd had a small victory. And imagine my relief a few months later when my son broke his wrist and needed a bone graft. The $30,000 bill was covered by our policy. I was so grateful for the new health-care law."

For millions of parents such as Tee and working families across the country, the health-care law is already providing financial and emotional relief during our nation’s slow economic recovery.

Nevertheless, Republican extremists such as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), shown above, want to pass a dangerous House Republican budget proposal that once again favors the wealthiest 1 percent, but takes money away from America’s seniors, the middle class and working families.

It is a budget that includes $3 trillion in tax handouts to corporations and the richest few, but cuts more than $1 trillion from programs on which hardworking families rely — Medicare and Medicaid, CHIP and the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies that help support families struggling to get back on their feet.

As we celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act being signed into law, we must share the stories about how this health-care law is saving lives and helping patients and their families.

In the past two years, more Americans than ever before are getting better care and living better lives because of the Affordable Care Act.

More than 32 million seniors received at least one free preventive care service. Those benefits, made available in 2011, included a free annual wellness visit and screenings for diseases such as diabetes and certain cancers that disproportionately impact African-Americans and Latinos. To date, 86 million Americans received preventive care such as mammograms and colonoscopies for free in 2011.

The health-care law also saved 3.6 million seniors $2.1 billion with a 50 percent discount that covered brand name prescription drugs. With the Affordable Care Act, 2.5 million young adults up to age 26 can gain coverage through a parent’s plans. The health-care law now protects 129 million Americans from being denied coverage.

It bans insurers from denying care to as many as 17 million children under the age of 18 and their parents because of pre-existing conditions such as a heart defect at birth or asthma. It bans insurance companies from setting arbitrary lifetime caps, or limiting coverage on the amount of coverage an insurance policy will cover. That means 105 million people no longer have to worry about being cut off from the care they need to survive serious illnesses such as cancer.

There’s so much more.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Americans are in control of their own health and health care. The practice of charging women 150 times more than men will be eliminated; individual insurance plans on state insurance exchanges are now required to cover maternity services so that expectant mothers can get the prenatal care that is critical for healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.

We now have a law that is changing the lives of Americans, improves the health-care system and is already working to save people’s lives. Additionally, health-care spending counts for one-sixth of the U.S. economy and the health-care sector is one of America’s greatest job engines with jobs that cannot be shipped overseas.

Despite all of these benefits, certain members of Congress want to repeal the Affordable Care Act and end Medicaid and Medicare as we know it.

What kind of sense does it make to shift expensive health-care costs to seniors, children and people with disabilities at a time when America’s working families are struggling to keep their heads above water?

The vision presented by the GOP budget privatizes Medicare, cuts essential services, and forces hardworking Americans to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for health care that might just save the life of a loved one.

Cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and repealing the Affordable Care Act will lead America down the wrong path. Republicans such as Congressman Ryan are using the new health-care law to play politics with people’s health. They should focus on investing in education, infrastructure and jobs to help grow our economy and strengthen the country. They should also protect our health care.

As members of Congress, members such as Ryan, defend their dangerous policies that put American lives on the line, Tee and the 1.2 million members of the SEIU Healthcare family will celebrate and protect the health-care law and the benefits it is delivering to seniors, children and young adults.

Dr. L. Toni Lewis, Immediate Past President of the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR/SEIU Healthcare), was named SEIU Healthcare Chair in June 2010.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Written by Dr. L. Toni Lewis, SEIU Healthcare Chair


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