By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR
Some simple ways to evaluate the new congressional health care plan: when children are covered, they are healthier and do better in school. If they stay healthy, they will have more opportunities as adults. When families are covered, they are better protected from crippling medical debt and homelessness. When more people are covered, our country’s productivity and economic well-being are secured.
The “American Health Care Act” that House congressional leaders proposed last week will drop millions of children and working families from their Medicaid programs. It dismantles health care as we know it, trading in coverage of our nation’s most vulnerable populations for a financial windfall benefiting the wealthy few. And in an analysis released just this week, the Congressional Budget Office gave us our clearest picture yet of the harm the GOP proposal would inflict. The CBO estimates that 14 million people would lose coverage by 2018, 24 million by 2026, and federal Medicaid spending would be reduced by $880 billion over the next 10 years. In short, the historic coverage gains we’ve made over the past few years would be wiped away.
Today, for the first time in our nation’s history, more than 95 percent of America’s children have health coverage. In the two years after the Affordable Care Act was implemented, more than four million Latino adults and more than 600,000 Latino children have gained health coverage. During that period, the overall Latino uninsured rate declined by one-third to 16.2 percent, and the Latino child uninsured rate had the largest two-year decline on record, from 11.5 percent to 7.5 percent.
Coverage means access to a primary care doctor for families that had long been shut out of insurance. It means choices other than relying on emergency room care when their children get sick.
It means working poor Latinos in states like Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Colorado now have access to Medicaid and don’t have to choose between rent and health coverage. It means access to cancer screenings and 72 other preventive services that are offered for free. Given that Latinos suffer disproportionately from certain conditions, these preventive services are particularly important to our community.
Based on their plan, House Republican leaders would prefer that our families go back to a time when their children’s next medical emergency meant the possibility of filing for bankruptcy over un-payable medical bills. This is not “self-reliance” or people making “choices to buy smart phones instead of health coverage.” This is making affordable health care unaffordable.
Specifically, the House proposal would:
- Reduce the ACA’s premium tax credits for working families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but do not have access to private insurance.
- Repeal Medicaid expansion, cutting a pathway for 11 million low-income adults who gained coverage in the 32 states that chose to cover more families through the ACA’s expansion provision. As of 2015, 3.2 million Latino adults have Medicaid coverage due to state Medicaid expansions and these gains are at risk.
- Slash Medicaid, a program that today covers 74 million Americans, including 18 million Latinos, by imposing radical caps to the amount of funding available to the states to cover low-income children and families, the elderly, and the disabled.
Health care is a priority issue for Latino voters and they are paying attention. In an NCLR/Latino Decisions health poll released late last year, 70 percent of Latino voters expressed support for the ACA, and backed efforts to improve the law, not repeal it. That poll also showed that 60 percent of Latino voters with insurance still worry about high medical bills—a worry bound to come to fruition under that House bill.
Taking Americans back to a time when people had to make a horrible choice between life’s necessities will prove costly—politically, economically, and most of all to the health of our nation.