By JEFF JOHNSON
(March 29, 2017) — I would like to comment on two things regarding the defeat of the seven-year Republican Party effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
First, I want to thank all of the organizations in the Health Care is a Human Right Coalition and many individuals, but in particular Teresa Mosqueda, Julie Popper, David Loud, and Janet Varon for their extraordinary work. For three months the HCHR Coalition has engaged in an all-out effort to educate the public and the Republican members of our congressional delegation that we need to protect and improve our tri-parte health care system — the ACA, Medicaid, and Medicare.
Through sign-on letters, rallies and demonstrations, congressional meetings, phone banking, and town hall meetings, we made our case.
And when the Republican plan finally emerged in the form of the American Health Care Act, it turned out that it was less of a plan than a series of ideas that the American public hated and that fractured the Republican Party.
The AHCA was a bill that created massive tax cuts for the wealthy, increased health care costs for older Americans aged 50-65, cut tens of millions of people off of health care, shifted hundreds of billions of Medicaid expenses to the states presuming that states could even pick up these costs, significantly increased the cost of health care for middle-income families, and lowered the quality of health care plans for the majority.
President Trump’s admission about health care encompassed not only his own lack of understanding but that of congressional Republicans as well when he said, “Who knew health care was so complicated?”
The second comment I want to make is that the defeat of the AHCA creates an opportunity for us to fully advocate for a comprehensive, affordable national health care, as opposed to a health insurance, system. A health care system premised on the value that Health Care is a Human Right and not an insurance product.
Recognizing both the good and the bad that is embodied in the Affordable Care Act, we need to begin advocating for knitting together a health care system that leaves no one out (including undocumented immigrants), that creates a national risk pool to dramatically lower costs, that incentivizes medical homes and primary care across the country, that reduces the cost of prescription drugs through national purchasing power, that adds hearing and dental coverage to Medicare, that includes long-term care, that enhances mental health coverage, etc., etc., etc.
Just a suggestion, but how about we start seriously looking at expanding Medicare for all. I think that this is no time for suggesting small things. I think that we begin advocating for a real affordable, universal health care system through the midterm elections and until we move the political and civic dial.
Jeff 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.