Healthcare and income stability are becoming increasingly difficult for Americans to access
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There’s a lot happening in the headlines. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDemocrat stalls Biden's border nominee Garland strikes down Trump-era immigration court rule, empowering judges to pause cases Unsealed documents detail Trump and Biden efforts on reporter records MORE’ run as Attorney General is being called into question; Spicer is out for good; Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Arkansas governor says it's 'disappointing' vaccinations have become 'political' Watch live: Trump attends rally in Phoenix MORE has openly threatened Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s job; and it’s finally Shark Week.

In the whirlwind of pressing news stories it can be hard to figure out where to focus your attention. We suggest keeping an eye on the policies that affect the health and income stability of millions of Americans. Let’s not forget that the Senate continues to attempt to revoke access to the healthcare system millions depend on. Now, more than ever, is the time to take an active role in demanding that the Senate design a healthcare bill that increases access to healthcare and income stability for all Americans.

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Together, healthcare and income stability are the backbones of American prosperity. Both are becoming increasingly difficult for many Americans to access, in large part due to decisions made by policymakers. Policies that do not support healthcare access are also policies that create barriers to employment opportunities, and threaten the economic security of many Americans.

 

So far, the three plans that Republicans have come up with: The American healthcare Act, the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, and the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act of 2017 are all prime examples of the lack of care policymakers have for average Americans’ health and wealth. This weeks they will vote on a motion to proceed with debate on a new attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This is a mistake.  

These misogynistic, racist, and elitist health bills were not constructed with the realities of the American people in mind. The CBO estimates that “repeal without replacement” will result in 32 million Americans losing access to healthcare over the next 10 years. With each of these bills, the Senate has made it clear that they are willing to sacrifice the health of the poor to reduce the federal budget and give more to the rich.

These bills are designed to phase out Medicaid expansion, even as it restructures the program into a block grant and/or per capita cap system. Given the rising cost of healthcare and the fact that half of all births are covered by Medicaid, it is extremely reckless for policymakers to cut funds to a means-tested program that provides health insurance to poor children, senior citizens, disabled individuals, and adults who are at 138 percent of the federal poverty line.

Likewise, the Trump administration’s belief that employment is the answer to reducing the number of Medicaid beneficiaries shows a flagrant disregard for the realities of the labor market. The Carsey Institute reports that more than 1.5 million rural workers have lost their jobs due to structural changes in the economy; and the development of autonomous vehicles has the potential to displace up to four million workers exposing them to the risks associated with job loss.

These problems are not new, but the challenges posed by a 21st century economy make them particularly salient. Now more than ever, Americans need access to healthcare that is not predicated on the whims of the labor market.

Attempts to undo this policy success also fails to acknowledge the precarious situation of most Americans’ checking accounts. According to a study from Bankrate, 63 percent of Americans don’t have $500 saved for an emergency situation. A medical emergency can be potentially disastrous for Americans who have no health insurance and minimal savings. Historically, the number one cause of bankruptcy was unexpected illness or injury, but with the ACA, those numbers have decreased.

Is the situation this dire? Is America’s health and wealth truly at risk? The uninsured rate is at an all time low and the most recent jobs report from the Department of Labor paints a rosy picture. But the fact is that structural shifts in the economy are not changing, wages have stagnated and do not reflect gains in productivity. We can’t afford to rely on failed trickle-down economics and regressive 20th century solutions for 21st century problems.

The Senate must pass social policies that support the health and financial well being of the people. To address the challenges of the 21st labor market, i.e. automation and wage stagnation, we need to once again craft policies that allow for basic health insurance coverage for the financially vulnerable.

Now is the time to extend the promise of the American dream to explicitly include health equity. Now is the time to tackle these problems head-on and ensure stability and security for the pocketbooks and health of every American. Now is the time to call your senator and demand they design a health insurance policy that provides care, and not misery.

Dr. Dawn Godbolt is a Health Equity Fellow at The Center for Global Policy Solutions. Her research interests include inequalities of race and gender, comparative health analyses, and urban poverty. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Florida State and is a former Ronald E. McNair Graduate Fellow. William Kay, an intern at the National Academy of Social Insurance The Center for Global Policy Solutions, also contributed to this article. 


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