The Stand

ACA repeal, Medicare vouchers threaten health care, economy

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By JEFF JOHNSON


SEATTLE (Jan. 17, 2017) — On Sunday, Jan. 15, tens of thousands of Americans rallied and raised their voices to save our health care. In Seattle’s Westlake Park, more than 2,000 people listened to seniors explaining the importance of Medicare, individuals who had never had health insurance describe the importance of being covered under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and for the first time having a “medical home,” and others who spoke about the need to improve our health care not dismantle it.

People are taking to the streets because Congressional Republicans and President-Elect Donald Trump are hell-bent on eliminating Obamacare without any plan to cover the 20 million-plus individuals who have been covered through the ACA exchanges and expanded Medicaid and threatening health care as we now know it, throwing the system into chaos.

Ending the health care exchanges and the subsidies for folks with lower incomes will cause over 22 million individuals to lose their health insurance according to estimates by the Urban Institute. With so many fewer health insurance policies being purchased, insurance markets will become increasingly more unstable. As younger and healthier individuals drop out of the market and those with pre-existing conditions remain in the market the cost of insurance premiums will dramatically rise for everyone.

Washington state stands to lose $3 billion in Fiscal Year 2018 and $3.23 billion in Fiscal Year 2019 through the loss of federal subsidies and funding for expanded Medicaid.

Since the ACA went into effect over 50,000 jobs in health care have been saved or created in Washington state. The elimination of the ACA would cause major unemployment in our health care sector with ripple effects throughout our economy.

Passage of the ACA created access to preventive care, like blood pressure screening, immunizations, and cancer screening, for seniors under Medicare. These benefits would be eliminated with the elimination of the ACA. With more than 1.2 million individuals enrolled in Medicare in our state, we are facing a serious decline in health care benefits and health outcomes.

Though Congressional Republicans and President-Elect Trump have no replacement health care plan, House Speaker Paul Ryan is drumming up support from Republicans to privatize the Medicare system through a system of vouchers and to block grant Medicaid payment to the states.

This is a recipe for dismantling the best health care system with the lowest administrative costs that we currently have, Medicare, and for reducing over time the health payments provided for the poor. Historically block granting has been used to increasingly replace federal obligations to the states with underfunded state payments. Washington state has 1.2 million individuals enrolled in Medicare and 1.5 million individuals enrolled in Medicaid.

Every other industrialized country in the world has a universal, affordable health care system. The ACA, while by no means perfect, was the United States’ effort over 100 years to create universal and affordable coverage. Now is not the time to abandon the ACA but rather to protect the positive parts of the law, fix what’s not working and expand coverage recognizing that health care is a human right.

To join the fight to save our health care please call your congressperson and our two senators and ask them to protect and expand the ACA, Medicaid, and Medicare. Also ask any friend or family member you have in Congressional Districts 3, 4, 5, and 8 to call the Republican members of our Congressional delegation to tell them you expect them to protect our health care.


15-Jeff-JohnsonJeff Johnson is President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the Evergreen State, representing the interests of more than 600 local unions and approximately 450,000 rank-and-file union members.

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