Get wise, GOP. The healthcare groundswell isn't going away
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The firestorm of constituent outrage that swept through February’s congressional recess sends a clear message to lawmakers: If you’re planning on gutting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid, get ready for plenty of opposition — and not just in the expected places.

The GOP’s radical plans for health care, and Medicaid in particular, would reach deep into communities that Republican electeds represent, creating chaos not just for patients, but for hospitals, clinics, small businesses, and local and regional economies.

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In Erie County, Pennsylvania, where Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness, ballots and battling opioids: Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US Sanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE edged out Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump heads to California Hillary Clinton: Voter suppression has led to 'crisis in democracy' in the US MORE in the presidential election, residents are the big winners in the state’s decision to increase Medicaid coverage through the expansion created under the ACA.

 

By the end of 2015, the expansion’s first year, almost one-in-10 non-elderly adults in Erie County had enrolled, according to state data. The overall share of state residents covered by Medicaid reached 27.4 percent in the same period, making it second among Pennsylvania counties for Medicaid coverage.

Health care for all these people is threatened if Republican plans go through. Recently, House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThree-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas Republicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea MORE unveiled a thinly-sketched plan to not only roll back the Medicaid expansion, but also end the entire 50-year Medicaid program as we know it.

Ground rules that protect patients, such as guaranteed enrollment, could be tossed out. Funding according to need, would be replaced with a lump-sum block grant or per-person cap. The resulting cuts and rationing would hit hardest the communities most needing the support Medicaid provides.

Understandably, Erie constituents have questions for their lawmakers, but congressmen Rep. Mike Kelly and Rep. Glenn Thompson were both no-shows to a Feb. 21 town hall organized by grassroots organization Keystone Progress and attended by more than two hundred people.

One of those hoping to talk with Kelly and Thompson was Christian Miller, who had only minimal health coverage when he was diagnosed with lupus at age 29. With the Medicaid expansion two years later, he could finally start getting the care he needs.

"This has been a lifesaver for me,” Miller told a reporter at a protest outside the office of Sen. Pat Toomey, who is also avoiding constituents. “I've been able to see badly needed specialist. Afford medications that are astronomically priced and had an opportunity to be able to heal and be a productive member of society."

Miller and other Erie residents are not alone in feeling scared and angry at their elected representatives.

West Virginia small business owners are concerned about how health care rollbacks will affect not only their businesses but also their local economies and communities.

As barber-shop owner Jeff Bratchett told the Charleston Gazette-Mail, “If my clients are forced to pay out-of-pocket for medical care, I lose them as customers.” He and other West Virginia small business owners have joined with the Main Street Alliance to call on Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? Prospects for Trump gun deal grow dimmer The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE and Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoThis week: House jump-starts effort to prevent shutdown Congress set to ignore Trump's wall request in stopgap measure America is in desperate need of infrastructure investment: Senate highway bill a step in the right direction MORE to protect and improve health care, not gut it.

The groundswell is not going away. Too much is at stake for the more than 74 million people covered by Medicaid and the more than 11 million with ACA coverage. They will not stand for Congress creating “one big death panel,” as pig farmer and Main Street Alliance of Iowa member Chris Petersen put it to Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyWe've lost sight of the real scandal Grassley: Kavanaugh classmate didn't contact Senate panel State Dept sent explosive-detection dogs to Jordan despite evidence of mistreatment: report MORE on Feb. 21.

In Maine, constituents are defending what they have now — and going one step further. Mainers for Health Care gathered more than 67,000 signatures to put Medicaid on the ballot and overcome Gov. Paul LePage’s five vetoes of expansion legislation.

Republican elected officials have tried to dismiss those speaking out as “organized,”  and engaging in “planned protests.” You bet we are organizing. And we are are planning more activities to defend and expand health care for all people.

We do this because we care about families and communities, and believe our elected representatives should, too. They can do that by voting against any legislation that cuts Medicaid or the ACA, changes the ground rules that protect patients, or results in higher costs or less care for even one of their constituents.

LeeAnn Hall is co-director of People’s Action and served on the executive committee of Health Care for America Now.


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