By JOHN BURBANK
(Jan. 12, 2017) — This week in our nation’s capital, the most prominent advertising was the demand from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to repeal “Obamacare taxes.” Leave it to the voice of big business to defund health care for tens of millions of people in our country. This is the same gang that has exported jobs by the millions from our country to low-wage havens. It is no wonder they don’t care about health care for Americans.
Nevertheless, there are at least 20 million American citizens who have health coverage, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. In our state, almost 800,000 citizens have gained health coverage. That is one out of every eight people. Add in the folks covered by AppleHealth, our state’s version of Medicaid, and 1.8 million people are covered. That is one out of every four of us.
The thing about the Affordable Care Act is that if you pull one string, the whole blanket will fall apart… and there goes health coverage for millions. Should you be afraid of what the Republican Congress and Donald Trump are planning to do? No matter who you are, you should be.
If Congress throws out the Affordable Care Act, 52,000 people in Snohomish County on AppleHealth will lose their coverage. Another 17,000 will lose their coverage as the state’s exchange shuts down. Statewide, coverage would be dropped for 190,000 exchange participants and at least 600,000 people covered by Medicaid. And when they get done with the Affordable Care Act, the Speaker of the U.S. House, Paul Ryan, wants to take apart Medicare. That means going after coverage for 1.3 million elderly and disabled residents in our state.
This can’t be good news, unless your family has an annual income in excess of a quarter of a million dollars. Then you get a nifty decrease in your taxes, as part of defunding health care for your fellow citizens. To put this in a little perspective, in central Everett there are about 600 households with incomes exceeding $200,000. These households will reap $7,500 in new income with the repeal of Affordable Care Act taxes. Statewide, about 130,000 households, 4 percent of all of us, will collectively gain $750 million.
So, what shall it be, feathering the nests of those who already have the cushiest couches, or preserving health coverage for literally millions of us?
It is not just your health coverage at stake. For thousands of people it is their jobs. After all, when you go to the doctor, you see a doctor, a nurse, and a medical assistant, not a robot! Affordable Care Act funding translates to more jobs for health care professionals. In all, more than 50,000 jobs in Washington. There are 20 percent more nurse practitioners here than two years ago — 1,000 more professionals taking care of us. So while Trump tweets about saving 800 jobs out of 1,400 at the Carrier plant, Congress and Trump threaten 50,000 jobs in our state alone.
Eastern and southwest Washington are most dependent on the Affordable Care Act. In Adams County, half of the entire population has health care through AppleHealth and the exchange. In Grays Harbor, Pacific, Grant, and Benton counties, two out of five people get their coverage through AppleHealth and the Exchange. In Okanogan and Yakima counties, it is 47 percent. And yet, all these citizens have Republican representatives in Congress who are intent on repealing Obamacare.
It is ideological warfare in the Trump era, with the affluent winning and everyone else losing. It would be easier if they just changed the name, say to Trumpcare, and kept the details. But I don’t think we can count on that.
Instead, it will fall to the State Legislature to pick up the pieces after Congress has broken apart health care. That is going to have to be a bipartisan effort. For example, Senators John McCoy (D-Tulalip), Kirk Pearson (R-Monroe), and Barbara Bailey (R-Oak Harbor) are from neighboring districts in which 40,000 people get health coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act. In the coming months it will be their responsibility to put aside ideology and focus on how to make sure that we all have health coverage, next year and in the years to come.