03/27/2017

Activists keep the Affordable Care Act alive

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Thanks to strong grass-roots activism, the seven-year effort by congressional Republicans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act is over (for now). A planned March 24 vote on the American Health Care Act—a measure to repeal and replace the ACA that was hastily cobbled together by Republicans in the House of Representatives—was pulled at the request of President Trump.

In the run-up to the vote, healthcare workers were 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. When the president made repealing healthcare legislation a priority in his first 100 days, thousands of ACA supporters took to the streets to defend the healthcare law and crowded town halls during a congressional recess to call on their members of Congress to keep the ACA in place.

"We elect people to Congress to solve problems, not to make life worse for Americans. The Trump-Ryan healthcare bill not only failed to deliver on the president's campaign promises of a healthcare bill that lowers costs and expands coverage for all Americans, but also created a plan under which the only winners were the wealthy, insurance executives and other corporations, who would have received big tax breaks," said AFT President Randi Weingarten. "Once the American people learned what was in this bill, they overwhelmingly rejected it, and we hope that President Trump and Speaker Ryan learned a lesson here. Every major piece of legislation needs adjustment; now is the time to fix and strengthen the Affordable Care Act, not repeal and replace it."

The failure of the Republican House members' effort keeps the Affordable Care Act intact. The Republican bill would have left 24 million Americans without coverage and repealed taxes imposed by the ACA on health insurance providers, manufacturers of prescription drugs and medical devices, and many high-income people. The proposed bill also would have taken away coverage for "essential benefits" like outpatient care, emergency services, mental health, prescription drugs and rehabilitative services. In addition, it would have set new limits on spending for Medicaid, the federal-state program that serves more than 70 million low-income people.

[Adrienne Coles, AFT press release]