With each new executive order, anxiety across the country rises. While it seems only non-Trump supporters are feeling the hurt, the truth is, the President’s policies will impact everyone. The townhalls of angry Americans in mostly red states paints a clear picture of the widespread panic. While we are still awaiting fallout from the newly signed Muslim ban and appear to be at a standstill with the trade talks with Mexico, movement around these issues threatens more than just your sensibilities. They can significantly affect your health. And the President’s assault on America’s health begins with our ability to access quality healthcare.
Diversity is the core of our country as evidenced by the field of medicine. One out of every four physicians in the United States is foreign born. This means that an executive order banning immigration from Muslim countries could mean less physicians at a time where there is already a shortage. This shortfall will be felt most in primary care as non-American doctors are more likely to serve on the frontlines. The ban would also affect other healthcare providers as one-in-six nurses, technicians and pharmacists is foreign born. The decrease in physicians and health care providers means less access to healthcare, longer wait times and perhaps a lower quality of care.
In addition, building “the wall” and imposing taxes on Mexico will drive up the costs of medical equipment as billions of dollars-worth is manufactured in Mexico. Equipment such as MRI machines, defibrillators and EKG machines are all primarily made in Mexico. This increase in cost will funnel down to hospitals, medical clinics and, eventually, patients.
Trump’s next point of assault is on the health of women. Abortion rates are at an all-time low – partially thanks to increased access to birth control, sex health education and services like Planned Parenthood. Additionally, within the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there are essential health benefits that include maternity and child care. If the health law is completely repealed, women will go back to the time where they only found out that their plan did not include maternity care once they became pregnant. Or they may be forced to pay higher premiums solely because of their gender.
Last and perhaps most importantly, this Presidency will take a toll on mental health. As I mentioned before, anxiety and depression are very real. Currently coverage for these illnesses is included as an essential benefit on all health insurance plans thanks to the ACA. The air of uncertainty in the country, especially for those who are in the direct path of the President’s executive orders, could lead to an increase in mental health issues, leaving people with no affordable treatment options. A Harvard study suggests that nearly 45,000 people per year died without health insurance before the ACA and some say we could return to these numbers.
If Trump is able to get even half of his agenda passed through to become law, the health impact will be tremendous. Millions will lose health insurance that will be replaced by empty promises. Those who continue to have health insurance will likely see higher premiums and lose benefits such as family planning and mental health coverage. Hospitals will incur increased costs on equipment and pass that along to patients. And there will be less physicians to take care of people in most need of care.
Stand up against this assault on your health. Let your voice be heard when it comes to the repeal of Obamacare, the new order to limit immigration and building a wall. These policies and campaign promises are certainly not worth your or your family’s health.
Dr. Lisa Ashe is a board certified internal medicine physician and medical director of the Be Well Medical Group, a leading concierge medicine and wellness practice currently serving the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia metro areas.