Lawmakers, Residents Worry about GOP Health Plan’s Impact on Maryland

by: Deborah Bailey Special to the AFRO
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The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act earlier this month. Now, Baltimoreans are joining concerned citizens across Maryland in coming to grips with the possibility that the healthcare they were just getting accustomed to under the Obama administration may soon be a thing of the past.

Several members of the Maryland congressional delegation joined Baltimore citizens in expressing grave concerns about proposed Republican health care policies and the benefits that would be lost if the Affordable  Care Act (Obamacare) is repealed this year.

Affordable Care Act

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) believes the Affordable Care Act should be strengthened, not repealed.  For an issue as important as healthcare, Marylanders deserve a bi-partisan approach, he said.

“There are plenty of ways we can improve our health care system and work to bring costs down, but this partisan effort to dismantle our health care system and give tax breaks to millionaires and insurance companies will not prevail,” Van Hollen vowed.

According to The Maryland Office of Policy Analysis, Maryland has benefitted considerably from the Affordable Care Act.  The percentage of Marylanders who were uninsured due to cost fell dramatically from 7.0 percent in 2011 to 2.8 percent in 2014.

Rep. Paul Sarbanes, (D-3) serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee, one of two House panels responsible for the GOP’s American Health Care Act.  Sarbanes voted against the legislation that narrowly passed the House of Representatives on May 3.

“Estimates show 400,000 Marylanders are in jeopardy of losing their insurance. Scaling back Medicaid will not only strip thousands of people off the health care rolls, but will hurt the state’s ability to address the growing problems of opioid addiction and mental illness,” Sarbanes lamented.

Maryland’s senior U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D) joined Van Hollen in pledging to wage a vigorous fight against turning back the Affordable Care Act.

“We will not lose track of Republican efforts to sabotage America’s health care system. We will fight it every step,” he said in a tweet after the passage of the Republican-backed health bill.  

According to the Center for American Progress, the healthcare policy recently passed by the U.S. House would leave an additional 313,300 Marylanders uninsured by 2026, and the average cost increase for those who could still afford insurance would expand by an additional $3,456 in less than 10 years from today.

Congressman Elijah Cummings was particularly concerned that the U.S. General Accounting Office had not had a chance to analyze the economic impact of the GOP’s American Healthcare Act before it passed his chamber. The legislation was proposed and passed quickly, leaving no time for an impact study.  Characteristically, the GAO would issue a report on how the proposed legislation would impact the overall economy and all stakeholders involved.  

Baltimoreans across the life spectrum like Simone Barrett and Johnny Jowers are joining their Congressional leaders and keeping a watchful eye on the U.S. Senate’s preparation of legislation to repeal Obamacare.

Barrett, who closely watches the health of her 19-year-old son as well as her mother who is in her senior years, said that the Republican-backed healthcare proposal will hurt many of President Trump’s core supporters as well as African Americans who overwhelmingly voted against Trump.

“The Republicans are talking about access to healthcare but access and affordability are two different things,” she said.

“They are playing word games with people. The healthcare initiatives proposed by Republicans and backed by Trump will hurt both poor Blacks and poor Whites.  If neither group can afford the healthcare they have access to, then everybody’s worse off,” Barrett added.

Octogenarian Johnny Jowers lives independently and is in good health right now but knows that the financial limits on coverage for major illnesses that is part of the Republic plan would be devastating for many of his contemporaries and their families.

“I’m a veteran so my health care needs are largely taken care of,” Jowers said. “Now that the healthcare debate has shifted to the Senate, I’m hoping that more seasoned and experienced voices will inform lawmakers of the impact of the healthcare policies being considered before they act.”

“I’m on a fixed income but able to watch my expenses and still live a comfortable life. Yet, I know very well that life on a fixed income changes considerably when you are faced with a major illness,” Jowers stressed, commenting on the dramatic lifestyle changes many families are forced to make unexpectedly when major illness strikes.  

Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-5), Elijah Cummings (D-7), John Sarbanes (D-3) and Jamie Raskin (D-8) protested in front of Gov. Larry Hogan’s residence in March of this year after Hogan failed to join four other GOP governors who issued their own proposals on overhauling Medicaid for low-income people. The lawmakers were concerned about Hogan’s silence about Republican healthcare policy, especially since Maryland is a state that opted to utilize Medicaid expansion, offering healthcare coverage to an additional 248,000 Marylanders as a result, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.  

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