President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but they can't seem to agree on their plans. Incredibly, Trump recently learned something nurses and health professionals already know: Healthcare is complicated. Health professionals also know that it will become much more complicated if Republicans successfully unravel the protections provided by the Affordable Care Act.
In his first speech to a joint session of Congress, the president offered up details about replacement plans that he said would include health savings accounts, tax credits and selling insurance across state lines, all of which have been proven not to work when it comes to broadening coverage. The current plans being put forward by the president and Republicans in Congress stack the deck against working families by replacing premium subsidies with tax credits. Funding for expansion of Medicaid would be scrapped, even though one in three kids gets coverage from Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program. And millions of seniors and people with disabilities who count on Medicaid also would be affected.
In the meantime, many people are calling for keeping the ACA in place. Healthcare workers are among the most vocal in their opposition to repealing the law because they see firsthand what happens when patients delay or forgo care because they can't afford it. Our members know the difference the Affordable Care Act has made. Many of the ACA's benefits—coverage for pre-existing conditions, freedom from lifetime limits on healthcare benefits, and free routine screenings, for example—are likely to be lost in any new healthcare law.
"I know that if the Affordable Care Act is repealed without a proper replacement, people will go back to relying on uncoordinated care from free clinics instead of getting the proactive care they need," says Jodi Oliver, a social worker and a member of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. "The possibility of seeing people turned away because they don't have insurance has galvanized my commitment to patient care and quality."
In late February, AFT nurses and health professionals were among the thousands of constituents who provided a rowdy homecoming to lawmakers at town hall meetings during the weeklong congressional recess. It was an opportunity for activists to join their communities in defending the ACA. Many members also participated in a day of action to protect healthcare on Feb. 25.
In Wisconsin, members of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals joined with Citizen Action and other groups to sponsor healthcare rallies to keep the pressure on Congress and the president. The groups invited their members of Congress—Sen. Ron Johnson and Rep. Sean Duffy—to a town hall in suburban Milwaukee. Neither legislator showed, but more than 130 citizens were there to make their voices heard.
In Pennsylvania, hundreds of citizens, including many healthcare professionals who are members of Health Professionals and Allied Employees, rallied in downtown Philadelphia to defend the ACA. Sen. Bob Casey joined them at the event.
OFNHP member Oliver planned to attend a town hall meeting but her congressional representative opted to hold a telephone town hall instead. "It's frustrating to see lawmakers isolating themselves," she says. Although Oliver was disappointed by the decision, she is not giving up. She has been writing letters, emails and postcards to her members of Congress. "I recognize that the law has areas that need improvement, but I also recognize that it is my responsibility to voice my opposition to efforts to challenge the Affordable Care Act."