Nurses Condemn Latest Bill to Decimate Care â€˜Graham-Cassidy Targets the Most Vulnerable
National Nurses United today condemned the renewed effort by Republicans in the United States Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and deny healthcare to millions of low and middle-income Americans.
“This last ditch attempt to repeal the ACA poses a mortal threat to the health and wellbeing of patients across the United States,” said NNU Co-President Deborah Burger, RN.
“The provisions in the Graham-Cassidy Amendment would be devastating for millions of our patients,” said Burger. “We already have tens of millions of people that lack health insurance, and this amendment would throw an additional 32 million people off of healthcare insurance at the least. It is outrageous that any United States Senator would vote for this vicious legislation.”
“What is most disgraceful,” Burger continued, “is the apparent deliberate targeting of the most vulnerable in our society, low income people who depend on Medicaid, who would be most directly affected by the block grant scheme, and those who need the ACA subsidies to pay for the ever rising premiums demanded by the insurance companies.”
“Further, Graham-Cassidy is especially punitive to the sick and ill, and others with pre-existing health conditions who stand to lose any of the protections established by the ACA under the state waiver provisions of the proposal,” Burger added
The Graham-Cassidy Amendment is being proposed just 10 days before the September 30 deadline for the Republicans to pass ACA repeal. The amendment, offered by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), would be a substitute for the American Health Care Act which passed through the House of Representatives in the spring. Nurses say that this amendment is worse than previous versions of ACA repeal.
The Graham-Cassidyamendment redirects all of the ACA’s funding into a block grant program to states, resulting in massive budget cuts for healthcare and shifting all of the burden of healthcare to individual states in a completely unsustainable way, said Burger.
The amendment would end Medicaid expansion, which extended coverage to 11 million adults, while also eliminating the ACA’s marketplace subsidies, which currently help 9 million people afford health insurance.
At the same time, it would institute per capita caps on all federal government funding for the entire Medicaid program, resulting in dramatic funding cuts.
To add fuel to fire, the legislation would eliminate the definition of essential health benefits, allowing individual states and insurance companies to opt out of covering maternity care, mental health, substance abuse treatment, and hospitalization, while also allowing insurers to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
“If this legislation becomes law, we will see a greater shift of care from clinics to emergency rooms,” Burger said. “When you take away health insurance, people are unable to get necessary preventative care, and as a result, they end up in the hospital with urgent situations, reducing their health outcomes, and increasing the overall cost for care.”
This last ditch effort to repeal the ACA comes just after Senator Bernie Sanders introduced his new Medicare-for-All legislation, S. 1804, alongside 16 Democratic Senate cosponsors. Whilst the Graham-Cassidy amendment would deny health insurance to tens of millions of people, the Medicare-for-All proposal would ensure guaranteed healthcare to every person living in the United States.
“We have a health care crisis in this country, we see it every single day at the hospital bedside,” said Burger. “Patients can’t afford to see the doctor, they can’t afford their medications, they can’t afford lifesaving treatment. As a result, people suffer needlessly. The Graham-Cassidy amendment will make this even worse than it is already. The Senate should reject this heartless proposal and instead pass Senator Sanders’ Medicare-for-All legislation to solve the problem once and for all.”