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BY CLYDE WEISS
Pat Waller helps deliver babies in the only hospital that provides maternity or emergency services in a 45-mile radius in her rural Ohio community. If congressional leaders and the Trump administration succeed in their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – it will make it much harder for people in her hospital’s service area to get the medical care they need.
“We’ve seen a much larger percentage of patients at the hospital have coverage” since the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010, said Waller, a labor and delivery nurse for her Athens-area hospital.
Waller, who is also a member of AFSCME Ohio Council 8, estimates that as many as 70 percent of patients at her hospital have coverage through Medicaid, a state-run insurance plan for low-income people that was expanded under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to cover more people. That’s true “especially in Labor and Delivery where I work,” she said. “Because of that, they are more likely to get regular prenatal care.”
If the law is repealed, as the House GOP leadership has proposed, Waller worries that more people in her community will no longer be able to afford basic health care, such as treatment for opioid addiction, which is plaguing the nation’s rural communities. That’s because the ACA requires Medicaid and ACA plans to cover basic mental health and addiction services. Under the proposed replacement plan, states will no longer be required to offer those services, and the Medicaid expansion will be phased out starting in 2020, leaving millions of working people without coverage.
The ACA replacement plan will be financially devastating not only to the millions of Americans who will lose their coverage, but to health care providers as well. Hospitals in rural areas will be particularly hard hit and could then be forced to cut back on services or close entirely. To Waller, that’s not acceptable.
“I’m afraid that with the [Trump] administration, they’re going to repeal every good thing about the Affordable Care Act that has made health care access so much better for people in this country,” Waller said.
Overall, the repeal plan being rushed through Congress would “increase the number of people who are uninsured by 24 million,” according to the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). That includes about 14 million people who will lose their coverage just next year.
On the campaign trail and in the White House, President Trump vowed that he would not cut Medicaid, and that the replacement for the ACA would have “insurance for everybody.” But the repeal plan that Trump is supporting abandons both of those promises to struggling communities in rural America.
“No one should ever have to worry between taking your child to the doctor or putting food on the table,” said Waller. But that’s the choice that people may have to make if the ACA is repealed.