Life, liberty, and the pursuit of healthcare coverage
© Getty Images

Independence Day, a day to remember and celebrate our nation’s quest for — and ultimately our achievement of — freedom from a monarch who had lost touch with the goals and aspirations of those who settled here, has less meaning for those struggling for their survival in today’s America.

The 29 million Americans who lack health insurance of any kind surely do not have independence, as they live in fear of illness or injury for which they have no coverage. Should they fall ill, they will not have the same ability as insured Americans to seek out treatment, because their options for coverage will be limited.

Healthcare is a ticket to independence for all of our citizens. It ensures our ability to be get an education despite the physical or mental hindrance that any child faces. It enables us to pursue and succeed at any chosen career. It allows seniors to hold on to their independence after a serious medical event or a chronic health condition.


And of course it generates economic activity that provides tremendous stimulus to the economy. 

This freedom is, however, in peril, not only for those currently without coverage, but also for the many millions more that will lose them under the bill offered to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by the Senate Republicans, and the House bill that came before it.

The ACA, flaws and all, created independence for millions of Americans. Many of the newly insured sought treatment for a physical or mental condition for the first time in years. 

Some people who had stayed in jobs that limited their mobility and their contentment because they feared losing medical coverage due to a pre-existing condition, became free to pursue new opportunities and greater success, and in this way, healthcare in general, and the ACA in particular, has supported that concept that our nation embodies every day, but particularly on Independence Day: The pursuit of happiness.

Under the Senate bill, 22 million Americans would lose their health coverage by 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). That is on top of the 29 million who don’t currently have it. The devastation from the bill, however, would be even broader than the sheer number of people no longer covered, as innovative state initiatives to expand coverage and fill in gaps would be placed in jeopardy.

The Senate bill also takes aim at Essential Health Benefits, the minimal level of coverage that health plans must meet under the ACA. Comprehensive health benefits would be put at risk for all Americans, not just those that have gotten coverage under Medicaid and private healthcare as a result of the ACA.

Those requiring mental health and substance abuse care are particularly victimized by the Senate budget. Those with private coverage could lose mental health benefits since they would no longer be deemed essential.

Worse still are the cuts to Medicaid, which are projected to be enormous by the CBO — $772 billion through 2026. Medicaid is the single largest payer of mental health services in the nation, and it is also playing a major role in responding to the nation’s opioid epidemic. Medicaid substance abuse programs have filled a gaping need during this crisis. As a nation, we cannot walk away from these commitments.

What began as campaign rhetoric to fix the shortcomings of the ACA and ultimately strengthen the law has devolved into a budget-cutting free-for-all. These cuts that fund the House and Senate bills give tax breaks to the wealthy and simultaneously remove independence for everyone else, and that is a troubling concept not only on the Fourth of July, but on any other day as well. 

Gerard A. Vitti is the founder and CEO of Healthcare Financial, Inc., a company that assists individuals in obtaining healthcare benefits. 

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.