Maryland Lawmakers Pledge to Defend Obamacare, Turn Back GOP Repeal Efforts

by: Deborah Bailey Special to the AFRO
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As Senate Republicans get to work crafting their own plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Maryland’s Congressional delegation re-committed themselves to defending the law.

Republican lawmakers face a similar challenge as their House counterparts in creating a bill which will generate the 50 votes needed to pass. The House passed a health care reform bill earlier this month after an initial, rushed attempt became an embarrassing public failure.

Chris Van-Hollen

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 Chris Van Hollen (D) believes the Affordable Care Act should be strengthened, not repealed.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, not a GOP-led effort which will put tax breaks ahead of improving wellness.

“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 said.

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 the cost of insurance fell dramatically from 7.0 percent in 2011 to 2.8 percent in 2014.

Rep. John Sarbanes, (D-3) serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee, one of two House panels responsible for the GOP’s health care reform bill, called the American Health Care Act. Sarbanes voted against that legislation, which 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 said.

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 House passed the Republican-backed health bill.  

According to the Center for American Progress, the healthcare policy recently passed by the House would leave an additional 313,300 Marylanders uninsured by 2026, and increase the costs of insurance to those who could afford it by an additional $3,456 annually over the next 10 years.

Congressman Elijah Cummings

Congressman Elijah Cummings was particularly concerned that the Congressional Budget Office had not had a chance to analyze the economic impact of the American Health Care Act.

The CBO’s report on the House measure, issued May 24, predicted an additional 23 million Americans would lose insurance by 2024, and coverage would skyrocket for those who are currently ill or face pre-existing conditions.   

Baltimoreans such as Simone Barrett and Johnny Jowers are joining their Congressional leaders and watching the Senate effort carefully.

Barrett, who closely monitors 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 him.

“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.”

Octogenarian Johnny Jowers lives independently and is in good health right now. But he said he knows that the financial limits on coverage for major illnesses in the Republican 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,” he said.

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

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