The recent vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, has District leaders and residents uneasy about what happens next and how that will affect the city.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said despite what happens with the AHCA, the District would find a way for all of its residents to have access to quality health care. (Courtesy Photo)
On May 4, the House voted 217-213 to approve the American Health Care Act (AHCA) which will roll back the expansion of Medicaid the ACA mandated, eliminate required coverage for every American, offer tax credits to pay for health care, and repeal taxes on those who have high-income, insurance, and drug companies, as well as cut off federal funds for Planned Parenthood. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said the District would find a way to make sure that all of its residents will have access to good health care at reasonable costs, even if AHCA should become law.
“While we don’t know the full estimated impact nationally, nor does Congress, the current proposal will either eliminate or reduce coverage for an estimated 90,000 District residents,” the mayor said. “We believe the Medicaid changes alone will cost the District between $1.8 billion and $4 billion in lost federal revenue over the next seven years, including an immediate loss of $53 million in fiscal year 2018. In Washington, D.C., we uphold the belief that access to safe and affordable health care is not a luxury, it is a necessity.”
However, Jill Homan, who represents the District on the Republican National Committee, said the AHCA may be just the thing the city needs. “Our health care system is presently unsustainable,” Homan told the AFRO. “We are finding that people have fewer choices and higher premiums.”
Homan said Blue Cross & Blue Shield recently raised her rates 40 percent and “folks can’t afford that.”
“We need a patient-centered system, not one-size fits all,” she said. “I look forward to seeing what the Senate will do so that D.C. benefits from a better health care system.”
Some District residents are unhappy with the AHCA. Former D.C. Council member Sandy Allen told the AFRO the AHCA is not good for District residents or anybody else. “It’s not a good piece of legislation,” Allen, who served on the D.C. Council from 1996-2005, said. “One has to wonder what impact it will have on all Americans, particularly those who are low income and have pre-existing conditions. Frankly, the way I see it, the only ones who will benefit will be the insurance companies and not the citizens of the U.S.”
While the AHCA can be considered daunting by those who oppose it, Allen said the District’s health care system has been doing well for a long time in terms of covering its residents. “We were doing well before Obamacare was instituted,” she said.
Nearly all District residents who were employed before Obamacare used their employer’s health care plan, whether they worked for the District or federal government or the universities or large businesses. Those that didn’t fall into those categories such as small business owners and their employees, or those who were homeless or indigent. The unemployed had access to District-instituted health care plans or Medicaid.
“ is a complete joke,” Vicki Wright-Smith, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 1, told the AFRO. “All that legislation is designed to do is to tarnish the legacy of President Obama. Many of the House members didn’t even read the entire bill they voted for.”
She said she thinks the bill is dead on arrival and that the Senate will try to pass its own version of health care reform. “The AHCA isn’t going any further,” she said.
Wright-Smith said that what lawmakers on Capitol Hill need to do is not repeal but repair.
“If there is a problem with Obamacare, then fix it,” she said. “You don’t need to tear the whole thing down because you don’t like the president.”